By Kristoffer Tigue
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said on Wednesday that he will not empanel a grand jury to decide whether to charge two Minneapolis police officers in the shooting death of a 24-year-old black man last November.
Freeman told reporters that he will make the determination whether there is sufficient evidence to charge the officers involved in the November shooting of Jamar Clark. He added that all future cases involving police shootings would be reviewed by independent police investigators.
"The accountability and transparency limitations of a grand jury are too high a hurdle to overcome," Freeman said. "We at Hennepin County will not use a grand jury in the Jamar Clark case."
Clark's shooting came at a time of fierce national debate over the use of lethal force by police, especially against black men. Minneapolis was among a number of U.S. cities that have seen protests over police killings.
Some witnesses have said Clark was handcuffed or restrained on the ground when he was shot, while authorities have said there was a scuffle and Clark was trying to get a police officer's gun.
Protesters had demanded that a special prosecutor handle the decision on whether to charge the officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze. Freeman previously said he hoped to decide by the end of March whether to charge the officers.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said in a statement that she respected the "challenging decision" made by Freeman.
"The legal standards and thresholds remain the same, whether this case is looked at by a grand jury or reviewed by the county attorney," she said.
Freeman said on Wednesday that the county had been using grand juries for more than four decades in officer-involved shootings.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department is reviewing how the city of Minneapolis responded to the protests after the shooting.
(Reporting by Kristoffer Tigue, Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Bernard Orr, G Crosse)