Min­neapo­lis po­lice silent on shoot­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - AMY FORLITI In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by Jeff Baenen, Doug Glass, Kyle Pot­ter and Rhonda Shafner of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

MIN­NEAPO­LIS — Rel­a­tives and neigh­bors of an Aus­tralian woman who was fa­tally shot by Min­neapo­lis po­lice over the week­end de­manded an­swers Mon­day about the mys­te­ri­ous shoot­ing in which the med­i­ta­tion teacher and bride-to-be was re­port­edly killed by a bul­let fired through a squad-car door.

Au­thor­i­ties re­leased no de­tails about what led to the shoot­ing of Jus­tine Da­mond, whose fi­ance said she had called 911 to re­port what she be­lieved was a sex­ual as­sault in an al­ley near her home.

Po­lice said only that of­fi­cers were re­spond­ing to a call about a pos­si­ble as­sault late Satur­day when she was killed. There were no known wit­nesses other than the two of­fi­cers in the squad car that showed up. A news­pa­per re­port said Da­mond was shot while stand­ing out­side the driver’s door in her pa­ja­mas.

Her fi­ance, Don Da­mond, said the fam­ily has been given al­most no ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about what hap­pened af­ter po­lice ar­rived.

Jus­tine Da­mond’s fam­ily mem­bers in Aus­tralia also re­leased a state­ment Mon­day through Aus­tralia’s De­part­ment of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade, say­ing they “are try­ing to come to terms with this tragedy and to un­der­stand why this has hap­pened.”

Al­though au­thor­i­ties did not re­lease the woman’s name, the Star Tri­bune iden­ti­fied her as Da­mond, from Syd­ney. The news­pa­per re­ported that she was en­gaged to be mar­ried in Au­gust and was us­ing her fi­ance’s last name. Her maiden name was Jus­tine Ruszczyk.

Al­most two days af­ter her death, po­lice of­fered no pub­lic ex­pla­na­tion and re­ferred ques­tions to the state’s Bureau of Crim­i­nal Ap­pre­hen­sion. A Mon­day state­ment from the bureau said more in­for­ma­tion would be pro­vided once the of­fi­cers were in­ter­viewed.

The bureau said Mon­day that no weapons were found at the scene.

Area me­dia iden­ti­fied the of­fi­cer who fired as Mo­hamed Noor, who is a So­mali-Amer­i­can. A city newslet­ter said he joined the city’s Po­lice De­part­ment in March 2015.

His at­tor­ney, Tom Plun­kett, re­leased a state­ment to Min­neapo­lis tele­vi­sion sta­tion WCCO say­ing, “We take this se­ri­ously with great com­pas­sion for all per­sons who are be­ing touched by this.” Plun­kett did not re­turn mes­sages left by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The Star Tri­bune, cit­ing three peo­ple with knowl­edge of the shoot­ing it did not name, said the of­fi­cers pulled into the al­ley in a sin­gle squad car, and Da­mond talked to the driver. The news­pa­per’s sources said the of­fi­cer in the pas­sen­ger seat shot Da­mond through the driver’s side door. A Bureau of Crim­i­nal Ap­pre­hen­sion spokesman did not re­turn mes­sages seek­ing to con­firm that ac­count.

Neigh­bor Joan Har­grave called the killing “an ex­e­cu­tion” and said there was no rea­son for a well-trained of­fi­cer to see Da­mond as a threat.

“This is a tragedy — that some­one who’s ask­ing for help would call the po­lice and get shot by the po­lice,” Har­grave said.

Of­fi­cials said the of­fi­cers’ body cam­eras were not turned on and that a squad car cam­era did not cap­ture the shoot­ing. In­ves­ti­ga­tors were still try­ing to de­ter­mine whether other video ex­ists.

It’s not clear why the of­fi­cers’ body cam­eras were not turned on. The de­part­ment’s pol­icy al­lows for a va­ri­ety of sit­u­a­tions in which of­fi­cers are sup­posed to do so, in­clud­ing “any con­tact in­volv­ing crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity” and be­fore use of force. If a body cam­era is not turned on be­fore use of force, it’s sup­posed to be turned on as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Once the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­pleted, it would be up to Hen­nepin County At­tor­ney Mike Free­man to de­cide whether to charge the of­fi­cer.

Free­man would not com­ment on the broader case Mon­day, but he said both of­fi­cers likely should have turned on their body cam­eras as they were ap­proached by Da­mond in an al­ley.

Po­lice Chief Ja­nee Harteau called the killing a “tragic death” and said she un­der­stands why the com­mu­nity has ques­tions. “I’ve asked for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to be ex­pe­dited to pro­vide trans­parency and to an­swer as many ques­tions as quickly as we can,” she said.

Some 50 friends and neigh­bors gath­ered in a semi­cir­cle Sun­day near the shoot­ing site, with many more look­ing on from the side­walk and street. Chalk hearts con­tain­ing the names of peo­ple who were vic­tims of po­lice vi­o­lence were drawn on the drive­way.

By Mon­day, flow­ers had also been left at the scene, along with a hand­writ­ten sign that asked, “Why did you shoot and kill our neigh­bor?”

AP/Star Tri­bune/EL­IZ­A­BETH FLORES

Don Da­mond, whose fi­ancee was fa­tally shot over the week­end by Min­neapo­lis po­lice, is com­forted by his son Zach be­fore mak­ing a state­ment Mon­day near his home.

On the Web De­tails on re­cent po­lice shoot­ings nwadg.com/ shot-by-po­lice

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