Jamar Clark is now well known nation-wide, due to his tragic death at the hands of police, November 15, 2015. It has now been announced that the county attorney will not charge the two White police officers involved in his death.
Unlike Jamar Clark, Jerome Copeland is not publically well known except to the agencies investigating the shooting. On the week of November 15, 2015, Mr. Copeland came forward with testimony on what he witnessed in the death of Mr. Clark. Mr. Copeland provided one hour of recorded testimony to two agents of the investigative agencies, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). My column on January 28, 2016, detailed Mr. Copeland’s statements to the investigative agents.
My letter, dated February 2, 2016 to the U.S. Department of Justice, highlighted the retaliatory action taken by the BCA against Mr. Copeland when they jailed him for three weeks in the Hennepin County Workhouse. He was wrongfully jailed, and only released because of a decision by a Hennepin County District Court judge, who ordered Mr. Copeland released from imprisonment.
Mr. Copeland represents the kind of citizen law enforcement claims it wants, citizens who will stand up for justice and come forward with testimony, delivering information seen first hand. Given how Mr. Copeland was treated, is it any wonder people hesitate or refuse to come forward?
In late February of 2016, Mr. Copeland and I did a reenactment of the shooting circumstances that took place November 15, 2015. That reenactment included Mr. Copeland’s presence and his firsthand knowledge of the final moments of Mr. Clark’s life.
On Friday, March 25, this columnist revealed, with Mr. Copeland’s permission, his name to the County Attorney’s office. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Public Information Officer told me Mr. Copeland’s name was already known to them.
As I pointed out to the U.S. Department of Justice, in my correspondence of Feb 2, 2016, Mr. Copeland had had no contact with the investigative team since the week of November 15, 2015. Yet Mr. Copeland had been imprisoned for over three weeks. Adding insult to injury, his reputation as a witness was attacked by the BCA agent, Chris Olson, who, in early December, approached Mr. Copeland’s Public Defender attorney of record. That move by the state of Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was bold and decisive, yet inappropriate and inexcusable. I am not surprised, as it is similar to investigative misdeeds in places like Ferguson, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; and Cleveland, Ohio.
Jerome Copeland did what any committed, conscientious and honest citizen would do; he stepped forward after witnessing a tragedy take place. His phone records will show that he first reached out to the president of the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP. Neither the NAACP nor the BCA sought him out again.
In return for his commitment to pursue justice, as noted above, and to the DOJ, the justice system wrongfully placed him in jail for over three weeks. As of the writing of this column, Mr. Copeland has never been shown his statement, and thus has not read it nor been given a chance to correct it if need be, nor has he been allowed to initial or sign it as is required by BCA.
I have covered this case in eight columns since November 26, 2015. I was told March 25, 2016, that the county attorney had a transcript of Mr. Copeland’s testimony of those things that he saw. I am disappointed by how this entire episode has been handled, but then we must remember the White institutions involved have seemingly reverted to business as usual with a Black victim.