MINNEAPOLIS – Police on Tuesday arrested two men suspected of shooting five Black Lives Matter demonstrators, while the family of a black man whose death inspired the protests called for an end to demonstrations that have gone on for days outside a Minneapolis police station.
No one suffered life-threatening wounds in Monday night's shooting, which took place about a block from the police department's 4th Precinct, where protesters have been demonstrating since the Nov. 15 death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark, who was shot by a police officer.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack. By Tuesday afternoon, police had announced two arrests: a 23-year-old white man taken into custody in suburban Bloomington and a 32-year-old Hispanic man arrested in south Minneapolis. Authorities said they were still seeking additional suspects.
"We are sparing no efforts to bring any and all of those responsible to justice," Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a written statement.
Henry Habu, who said he has been providing security for protesters, said he and others approached four white people who were standing under a "Justice4Jamar" sign to ask what they were doing there. The group was composed of three men and one woman, with three of them wearing masks that left their eyes exposed.
"We're here for Jamar," one said, according to Habu.
Habu said they tried to escort the four from the scene and they took off running. Habu said he did not see the shooting that followed, but heard it.
"It happened so fast," he said.
Oluchi Omeoga witnessed the shooting and said a handful of protesters followed three men in masks to a street corner, where the men pulled out weapons and began firing.
Two people were shot in the leg, another in the arm and a fourth in the stomach, said Mica Grimm, an organizer with Black Lives Matter who said she arrived on the scene soon after the shooting.
In a statement released early Tuesday through U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison's office, Clark's family thanked protesters for their "incredible support" but asked, in light of the shootings, that the demonstration outside the precinct offices end and protesters move "onto the next step."
Protesters, who have been camped outside the precinct for more than a week, insisted they will not leave. They called a news conference to announce that they would "not bow to fear" or "intimidation" after the shootings.
"We ain't going nowhere," said Pastor Danny Givens Jr. of St. Paul, a clergy liaison to the Black Lives Matter movement.
One of the wounded protesters returned to the scene. Wesley Martin was walking with a cane after being hit in the left leg. He said he remembers chasing the masked men, then getting shot and being put in an ambulance. But he recalls little else.
Late Monday, as a crowd gathered around the shooting scene, police used a chemical irritant to push them back, Habu said. Police spokesman John Elder did not respond to a question about any chemical irritant.
Authorities have said Clark was shot during a struggle with police after he interfered with paramedics who were trying to assist an assault victim. But some people who said they saw the shooting allege Clark was handcuffed.
Protesters and Clark's family have called for investigators to release video of the shooting. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said it has video from the ambulance, a mobile police camera and other sources, but none of the footage shows the event in its entirety. The agency, which is conducting a state investigation, said releasing the footage now would taint its investigation.
A federal criminal civil rights investigation is also underway to determine whether police intentionally violated Clark's civil rights through excessive force.