MINNEAPOLIS -- The city of Minneapolis will work with a court-appointed mediator to try to resolve the lawsuit over the death of a black man who was shot by police in 2015, city leaders said Wednesday after a federal judge demanded answers about settlement negotiations.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis summoned Mayor Jacob Frey and other city leaders to court on Wednesday after he received an email saying the City Council rejected an offer to settle the case over the death of Jamar Clark. The decision not to settle was made behind closed doors on Friday — the same day the city announced that it agreed to pay $20 million to settle a lawsuit over the 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
"The court wants to have a full understanding of where it's going and what's occurred," Davis said of the case. "The court is not knowledgeable about what's going on."
The deaths of Damond and Clark unfolded under different circumstances.
Damond, who was white and a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, was shot by a police officer when she approached his squad car minutes after calling 911 to report a possible rape in the alley behind her home. Mohamed Noor, the Somali American officer who shot her, was convicted of murder. Last week, Frey cited the murder conviction, along with Noor's failure to identify a threat before using deadly force, as reasons for the large payout to Damond's family.
The 24-year-old Clark was shot in the head after a struggle with two white officers. The Hennepin County attorney declined to bring charges, saying an investigation found Clark was shot after trying to get an officer's gun. Clark's death sparked large protests and an 18-day occupation outside the police station on Minneapolis' north side, the section of the city where the shooting occurred.
William Starr, the attorney for Clark's father, James Clark, said in court that the settlement offer in his case was "nominal" and was made before the settlement was reached in the Damond case. He said he believes race is a factor in how the two cases were handled differently and he now wants a "transformative settlement" — echoing language used to describe the Damond settlement. He also said the case could go to trial, but agreed to continue to negotiate.
Starr also said he would file motions to resolves some legal issues. After Wednesday's hearing, he explained that since James Clark is Jamar Clark's adoptive father and there are several siblings, he has to file a motion to settle next-of-kin issues.
James Clark also said race is a factor.
"We just want justice," he said. "(Jamar) definitely didn't deserve that from police when they are supposed to serve and protect. ... They don't care about a black person."
Davis had ordered Frey, City Council President Lisa Bender, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and City Attorney Susan Segal to appear in court for Wednesday's hearing. Councilman Jeremiah Ellison also attended.
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