MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minneapolis NAACP and the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a lawsuit demanding that state investigators release any videotapes showing the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said parts of the controversial shooting were captured on surveillance videos but that not one video showed the whole incident.
The shooting death of Clark triggered the occupation of the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct and weeks of protests.
Witnesses said Clark was handcuffed on the ground when police shot him in the head.
The police federation has insisted Clark was not handcuffed and that he was resisting arrest after a domestic assault.
The NAACP and the ACLU say the release of the tapes is required under the Minnesota Data Practices Act, adding that the state of Minnesota opened the door to releasing the tapes when they showed at least one to Gov. Mark Dayton.
The NAACP says a lack of trust in the system is why they are taking the fight to court.
“We have a high level of distrust for how the system functions, and part of that has to do with the fact the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has a very poor track record – abysmal, in fact — of holding officers accountable for shooting civilians,” said Nekima Levy- Pounds, the president of the Minneapolis NAACP.
Legal experts say Minnesota’s data practices law has an exception for criminal investigations.
“The Minnesota law says two things: Release it, but, if there is an active criminal investigation going on, don’t release it,” said emeritus professor Joe Daly of Mitchell Hamline Law School. “So the judge has to…strike a proper balance between two goods in the law.”
The lawsuit argues the state opened the door to the exception when it allowed Dayton to view one of the tapes, which he described last November as inconclusive.
On Tuesday, the governor defended his right to see the tape.
“I am the chief executive of the state of Minnesota, the state government, and every agency reports to me,” he said.
Daly said Dayton’s argument will probably hold up.
“He is the chief executive of the state of Minnesota,” Daly said. “He should know these very important public policy questions.”
The State Department of Public Safety released a statement, saying they plan to release the tapes when the criminal case is closed.
The case is expected to eventually go before a criminal grand jury in Hennepin County, but there is also a federal investigation underway.
Previously, federal investigators, including U.S. Attorney Andy Luger, have weighed in against releasing any videos or evidence until the criminal investigation is over.