Jamar Clark's shooting death divided Twin Cities residents when it happened back in November. And it still does, after last week's decision from Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman not to indict the cops involved.
Some said Clark deserved blame for not complying with police. If he'd just taken his hands out of his pockets, Clark would merely have been handcuffed and arrested, rather than killed. Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray said there was no racial element to Clark's interaction with police, adding that he, personally, will always "do what the police tell me to do because I don't want to get shot."
Others saw the opposite: Cops needlessly escalating an uncooperative suspect's behavior into a physical confrontation that ended, 61 seconds later, in Clark's death.
Javier Morillo-Alicea is firmly in this latter camp. Morillo, president of the SEIU Local 26 union, used his "Thug in Pastels" blog to compile a list of incidents that, on their faces, presented far more dangerous situations to the police. Morillo documents 17 times Minnesota law enforcement confronted an "armed and dangerous" man, each time managing to arrest the suspect without killing him.
"Here, where we live, men who do not have hypothetical guns that are maybe, perhaps, hiding in their pockets… men with actual weapons get arrested. And they live to tell the tale."
The difference to Morillo is obvious: These guys are white. Jamar Clark was black.
Maybe most shocking about Morillo's list is just how frequent these incidents are. Eight of them happened within the last six months; the oldest cases on the list are from 2009.
Most seem a lot more harrowing for the cops than the situation with Clark, who was standing motionless, with his back to police, when officer Mark Ringgenberg used a chokehold-like move to take him to the ground. That pales in comparison to Michael Reiten, who brandished a gun and repeatedly pointed it at police in Alexandria during a high-speed chase last December.
Or Gregory Allen Rose, arrested in November on suspicion of homicide and arson he had committed in Michigan. When cops in Carlton County tried taking Rose in, he led them on a lengthy chase, and then used a stolen car to ram several police vehicles — typically, a crime that could be charged as "assault with a deadly weapon." He was arrested unharmed.
Then there's Brian Fitch, who, in 2014, shot and killed a West St. Paul police officer, and exchanged fire with others. He was wounded, but not fatally, and taken into custody alive.
The list goes on. It probably won't convince too many people whose minds are already made up. But it does offer a sharp new set of tools for people arguing that what happened that night could've been avoided.