MINNEAPOLIS (CNN) — Smoke tumbled from several small bonfires surrounded by protesters warming their hands outside the 4th Police Precinct in North Minneapolis on Saturday.
The demonstrators are a mixed crowd of black, white, and brown people who say they will not leave until justice is done. At the very least, they want any video that police have to be released in the officer-involved fatal shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark.
Outside the police department, a myriad of small colorful tents, a table of snacks and chairs sit in the front yard of the precinct.
A small portable wooden structure with “Justice Shack” written on it blocks a portion of the road outside the department.
Fresh paint has hidden the “F— the police” graffiti scrawled on the precinct building, along with Clark’s name.
Many of the protesters have been here almost a week, since the November 15 early-morning shooting involving two Minneapolis police officers and Clark, who they were trying to arrest.
Several witnesses to the shooting or immediate aftermath told CNN the public needs to understand why the protesters are so angry. The witnesses are adamant that there was no reason for police to shoot Clark — they say he was restrained.
One told CNN he is sure Clark was handcuffed. Another said he was unable to move.
“One of the cops had his knee in his back and the other cop was kind of straddling him in an awkward type position. But they had complete control of him. I didn’t see him fighting, I didn’t seem him resisting,” barbershop owner Teto Wilson said.
Wilson said he had just walked out of the Elks Lodge as it was closing when he saw the officers with Clark on the ground. The lodge is across the street, about 35 feet from where the incident happened. It was dark, about 10 minutes before 1 a.m.
“I saw a still body laying on the ground restrained. Like I said, maybe about a minute after that, that’s when the shot went off.” Wilson said he couldn’t see which officer shot Clark. “There was no reason to shoot him.”
Not so, said Frederic Bruno, the attorney representing one of the officers. “Mr. Clark was given multiple opportunities to desist,” Bruno said in a statement.
“While he was being legally detained, he chose to resist, fight officers and to seize control of an officer’s firearm,” Bruno said. “At no time was Mr. Clark handcuffed, contrary to press reports and social chatter.”
Minneapolis resident Everett Spicer, who said he saw Clark in cuffs, recoiled after hearing Bruno’s statement.
“How (is) he going for a gun in handcuffs behind his back? Do you think I could see a gun back here,” Spicer said as he motioned putting both his hands behind his back as one would do if being cuffed.
Spicer says he is sure of what he saw. He says he, too, was next door at the Elks Lodge and came out right after the gunshot went off.
“I instantly walked out the front door and you see a man across the street in handcuffs on the ground. He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t twitching. He wasn’t doing anything. The ambulance pulled off after they shot him,” he said
Spicer said he was sure Clark was dead. Clark died at a hospital the next day.
Spicer told CNN as the second group of EMS workers came, police removed the handcuffs.
“They went back and took the handcuffs off because they didn’t want the EMS team seeing that this man was still in handcuffs,” he said. “He just shot him. That’s more s— you gotta deal with.”
Union: Clark Had Control of Gun
The police union has a starkly different version of events.
At a Thursday news conference, Robert Kroll, president of the union, said Clark had control of an officer’s gun belt and pistol.
“It was in the holster and he had physical control of the hand grip,” Kroll told reporters.
State and federal investigators are looking into the shooting. Officers and paramedics were responding to a call of a woman being assaulted.
Authorities have said Clark was interfering with the woman’s medical care when Officers Mike Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze tried to arrest him.
Kroll said Clark was trying to pull the woman out of the ambulance.
Parts of the incident were recorded on several cameras, but no video shows the entire incident, Drew Evans, the superintendent of Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said this week. None of the videos will be released until the investigation is over.
Clark “chose to resist, fight officers, and seize control of an officer’s handgun,” according to a media statement from Kroll and Frederic Bruno, attorney for Schwarze.
Officers Feel Besieged, Official Says
Black Lives Matter activists have been among the protesters. Clark was African-American.
As protesters remain outside the 4th Precinct headquarters, some police officers are worried that the situation could turn violent — and that if they do, City Hall will not have their back.
“The cops feel like it’s like a local version of Benghazi,” Kroll of the police union told WCCO radio on Friday. “They are under siege. The mayor has directed the police chief to not help.”
In an interview on WCCO radio, Kroll accused Police Chief Janée Harteau and Mayor Betsy Hodges of not listening to police concerns.
CNN affiliate WCCO-TV reported that some protesters have been spraying graffiti and throwing rocks at officers. Police said that they’ve found Molotov cocktails nearby.
Kroll said that the protesters need to be cleared out, and that the mayor “has directed the police chief to not help” — a decision he says is politically charged.
“They need to get their political needs out of it. They need to allow the chief to be a chief and run the department and take feedback from her upper echelon,” Kroll said.
Hodges’ office has not responded to CNN’s request for comment on Kroll’s claims.
Harteau called in during Kroll’s radio interview, and once she jumped in the conversation got tense.
“We do have to facilitate the freedom of speech,” Harteau said. “But there’s also other things [that] occur when there’s Molotov cocktails being thrown, shots fired. When officers are struck with rocks and bottles and bricks, I want them to take action. They have taken action and it’s appropriate action.”
“I’m not asking anybody to put themselves in harm’s way unnecessarily and not protect themselves,” she said.
Several hundred people came to a candlelight vigil Friday night. It was mostly a quiet night, though there were a few tense exchanges with police.