Police use of lethal force bridges racial divide

A black man shot by police in an incident that sparked large protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has died. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34848250

Jamar Clark, 24, had been on life support in hospital since the shooting on Sunday morning.

Police say that he was the suspect in an assault case and was interfering with medics who were working on the victim when he was he was shot.

Protesters have camped outside the police station for two days, and blocked a major highway on Monday.

That demonstration led to the arrest of 51 protesters on Monday night.

Police have released few details about the shooting of Clark – who some say was handcuffed when he was shot. Police have denied that claim.

Monday night’s demonstrations came after the mayor’s decision to ask the federal government to launch a civil rights investigation.

Mayor Betsy Hodges said she was asking for the investigation in the “interest of transparency and community confidence”.

While a state agency has already launched a criminal investigation, the mayor said that the city needs “all the tools we have available to us”.

Two officers involved in the shooting are on paid leave – which is standard procedure after incidents such as this.

The police chief has said that the officers were not wearing body cameras, but would not say whether the squad car or other surveillance video captured the incident.

Protesters have welcomed the federal investigation, but have vowed to continue demonstrating until any video of the situation is released and the officers involved are identified.

The protests began on Sunday and included an overnight encampment at a Minneapolis police station near the scene of the shooting.

At least eight tents were seen at the campsite on Monday, and a few protesters were sitting inside the glass doors of the station – including one who was knitting.

“We’re still not moving until we get that footage,” said Michael McDowell, a demonstrator with the Black Lives Matter movement.

According to police, the incident began early on Sunday when police were called to north Minneapolis following the report of an assault.

At the scene, police found Clark interfering with paramedics who were attempting to help the victim. They attempted to calm him, which resulted in a struggle and a shot being fired, police said.

His father told the Associated Press news agency that his son suffered a single gunshot wound over his left eye.

His brother told the AP that family members assembled at the hospital on Monday night to take Clark off of life support.

A number of high-profile police shootings of black people have sparked protests nationwide about the police use of excessive force against African Americans.

 

But also in Idaho…

The Yantis family was at dinner when the telephone rang. A bull owned by Jack Yantis, 62, had been struck by a vehicle on Route 95, which cuts through Yantis land. He needed to come down. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/18/us/family-of-man-killed-by-deputies-in-idaho-says-it-was-murder.html?_r=0

Collisions like that are not uncommon here in the rural West, where “open range” signs warn drivers that fences might not count for much. And there is usually a hard Western conclusion: The owner of the animal, if it is still alive but deemed beyond recovery, puts a bullet through its head and hauls it away.

This time, it went wrong. About 45 minutes after the crash, Mr. Yantis lay dying on the highway, shot by two deputies from the Adams County sheriff’s office who had responded to the collision. Mr. Yantis’s wife, Donna, 63, who had been ordered to the ground with other bystanders and relatives, was having a heart attack.

Much about what happened that night, on a dark stretch of highway just outside Payette National Forest, two hours north of Boise, remains uncertain.

State and county officials said Mr. Yantis’s bolt-action rifle had discharged, but they have not described the circumstances. Family members say flatly that Mr. Yantis was murdered. Inquiries by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States attorney’s office and the Idaho State Police are just beginning. Mrs. Yantis is recovering in a hospital in Boise, and one of the people in the vehicle that struck the bull is still hospitalized.

But the convulsion of recrimination, anger and anxiety that has gripped this community of 800 people since the shooting on the night of Nov. 1, much of it directed at the sheriff’s office, is not going away, residents said. And though the circumstances of other recent police-involved shootings around the nation are different — including that all the parties involved here were white — the alienation from authority echoes in a way that feels much the same.

“This is a very conservative community in a very conservative state, and people are just distrustful of the government,” said Dale Fisk, the editor of The Adams County Record, a weekly newspaper that has been covering the story. Now, the uncertainty over what happened has become what Mr. Fisk, who played football with Mr. Yantis in high school, called “a suffocating blanket.”

Sheriff Ryan Zollman said in an interview that he had received numerous death threats, though many of them, he added, judging by the area codes of the phone numbers, had come from far away.

“We’ll see how you like it when we gun down your family in cold blood,” one recent message said, according to Sheriff Zollman.

The tensions were also evident on Saturday, when about 75 people marched through Council carrying signs reading “Justice for Jack,” and “How many bullets constitute excessive force?” A group called 3% of Idaho, which stands for “freedom, liberty and the Constitution,” according to its website, brought in about 10 members from around the state to march alongside local residents.

“We heard there might be attempts to disrupt,” said Eric Parker, the group’s vice president. The march was ultimately peaceful.

There is little doubt, residents and family members said, that Mr. Yantis was a tough man who had lived a tough outdoor life.

He lost part of a toe in a logging accident, and just a few years ago, still training horses, he broke his pelvis coming down on a saddle horn when the horse bucked.

Several people over two days of interviews in Council said Mr. Yantis, who ran for sheriff himself seven or eight years ago but lost, was also a man who was not about to hold his tongue when he felt wronged.

“He was a good man, he was an honest man, a hard worker, but he did have a bit of a temper,” said Bob Grossen, whose family has been in the Council area since the 1880s. “But if you know Jack, if you grew up around Jack, you know Jack would not be the person who would pull a gun on someone — I have no problem saying that.”

Mr. Yantis’s two daughters described him as a soft-spoken man who rarely raised his voice and who loved his animals. He trained his daughters in gun safety from the age of 5. His idea of Sunday worship was to head into Idaho’s back country.

“Let’s go see what God created,” he would say, his daughter Sarah Yantis, 42, recalled.

That Adams County is a tough place to be in law enforcement, though, or to hire or retain officers, is also clear. The pay is low — $14.50 to $15 an hour in a dangerous job — and the territory to patrol is vast. With the two officers involved in the shooting now on paid administrative leave, only four deputies are left to patrol an area bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

Economic stress is also part of the fabric. Adams County has the highest unemployment rate in Idaho, 6.8 percent, compared with 4.2 percent statewide, according to the most recent federal figures. Timbering jobs and tax revenue have declined over the years, and some residents believe that the sheriff’s office writes more speeding tickets than necessary just to make up the revenue. The county has about 3,900 residents.

“They have to do their job, and I agree with that — you can’t speed, and you can’t drive drunk,” said Sylvia Hulin, who said she had nieces and nephews married into the Yantis family. “But oh my gosh, it’s just known all over the country, ‘Be careful when you go through Council because they’ll stop you.’”

Mr. Yantis’s 5-year-old bull, struck and wounded on the highway that night, is what connects all the pieces.

Family members said they heard gunshots before arriving at the scene, which was visible from Mr. Yantis’s home just off the highway, and found that the bull had already been shot, apparently by the deputies, but not killed.

“Every animal deserves to be put down humanely, and they weren’t even doing that part right,” Sarah Yantis said. “It went wrong from the get-go.”

Mrs. Yantis’s nephew, Rowdy Paradis, 42, who was having dinner with the family and went to the highway that night, was more blunt in his assessment.

“It was a needless murder,” he said in an interview standing on the muddy ranch driveway. Asked exactly what happened, Mr. Paradis said: “Nobody knows. He was leaned over the bull, then one cop grabbed him and it happened.”

Part of the frustration in Council is that Sheriff Zollman has not said definitively whether any cameras on the deputies or their vehicles were turned on that night.

Deputies, he said in an interview, have discretion in camera use because of the limits of battery time and memory; for traffic incidents, they do not always hit record.

He said in the interview that he had turned over the cameras to investigators for the state police without checking because he did not want anyone to say that evidence might have been doctored.

“We are in a lose-lose situation, not just for the sheriff’s office, but the community,” Sheriff Zollman said. No matter what happens with the state and federal investigations, he said, “there are always going to be people who say we should have acted differently.”

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