Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau returned from vacation and held a press conference yesterday afternoon on the shooting death of Justine Damond by Officer Mohamed Noor. The Star Tribune reports on the press conference here along with two-minute audio excerpts. The Star Tribune has also posted video of the entire press conference on Facebook here.
The department’s video of Chief Harteau’s statement is posted on YouTube. I have embedded it below. Please note that the video omits the question-and-answer period that followed Harteau’s statement.
Harteau knows little more about the incident than what has been publicly released by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Noor continues to rest on his right to remain silent. He has spoken neither to the BCA nor to the department’s internal affairs unit reviewing the shooting.
Noor was accompanied on the evening of the shooting by Officer Matthew Harrity. Noor’s partner has been interviewed by the BCA. The BCA has released a summary of the interview posted here.
Harrity drove the squad car that responded to Damond’s 911 call with Noor in the passenger’s seat. With lights off, they drove through the alley behind Damond’s residence. Harrity told the BCA that he was startled by “a loud noise” immediately before Noor shot past him out the open driver’s side window of their squad car at Justine Damond as she approached.
Based on the publicly available information, the shooting of Ms. Damond is indefensible. Not a single fact has been brought forward to suggest that Ms. Damond’s shooting was lawful. Noor’s refusal to talk suggests he cannot defend his actions.
Harteau said nothing in defense of Noor’s actions. If anything, she condemned him and disassociated the department from his actions. In her statement she put it this way: “Justine didn’t have to die. Based on the publicly released information from the BCA, this should not have happened. On our squad cars, you will find the words ‘To protect with courage and serve with compassion.’ This did not happen.”
And this: “Having the information that is publicly available right, while recognizing there is an open BCA investigation, I believe the actions in question go against who we are as a department, how we train and the expectations we have for our officers. These were the actions and judgment of one individual.”
And this: “This did not have to happen and, again, Justine did not have to die.”
Translation: Noor didn’t need to kill Justine.
Asked in the question-and-answer period about the possibility that Noor was an affirmative-action hire, Harteau asserted: “This is about an individual officer’s actions. It’s not about race or ethnicity. We have a very robust training and hiring process. This officer completed that training very well, just like every officer. He was very suited to be on the street.”
I don’t think this answers the question. I think it avoids it. Listening to Harteau’s additional comments toward the end of the press conference, I believe she was referring to the department’s field training after hiring.
Minneapolis attorney Robert Bennett has been retained by Ms. Damond’s family to represent their interests in the matter. Bennett specializes in police misconduct cases. He is an outstanding attorney whom I have known for a long time. Bob told the Star Tribune: “It’s quite clearly an improper use of deadly force on someone who it is impossible for me to conceive of as a threat to anyone. I mean she saves ducklings out of the sewer, for God’s sakes.”
If the “loud noise” that startled Officer Harrity illuminates anything, it may be the sick culture that reigns in Minneapolis.