Chief: Australian Woman Shot By Officer ‘Did Not Have To Die’
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — An Australian woman should not have been shot to death by a Minneapolis police officer responding to her 911 call and the officer’s actions “go against who we are in the department,” the city’s police chief said.
In her first public remarks on the killing, Chief Janee Harteau on Thursday defended Officer Mohamed Noor’s training but lamented the death of 40-year-old bride-to-be Justine Damond, who was shot in the stomach as she approached a squad car near her home.
“This did not have to happen. Justine did not have to die,” Harteau said.
Damond had called 911 twice late Saturday to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her house on Minneapolis’ southwest side. Noor, who was in the passenger seat of a squad car, shot at Damond through the driver’s side window.
“The actions in question go against who we are in the department, how we train and the expectations we have for our officers,” Harteau said. “These were the actions and judgment of one individual.”
Noor has declined to speak with the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is handling the investigation. His partner, Matthew Harrity, told investigators he was startled by a loud sound right before Damond approached the police vehicle.
Neither officer had their body cameras turned on, which has drawn widespread criticism. Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a blog post Thursday that officers should turn them on any time they are responding to a call.
Harteau also said the cameras should have been on. She said the department is making changes to its policy on the cameras, rolled out citywide eight months ago, including looking at technology that would turn them on automatically.
Minneapolis police said earlier this week they already were reviewing their body camera policy before Damond’s death. Issues being examined include having supervisors work with patrol officers to ensure the cameras are activated more frequently.
Damond’s family has said they want changes in police protocols, including a look at how often officers are required to turn on their cameras. Their Minneapolis attorney, Bob Bennett, said they also “want to see this person not be an officer.”
“He shouldn’t be on the street with a gun making decisions,” Bennett said, adding that he wanted to see Noor’s training records, including how he did in situations involving when to shoot or not shoot.
Harteau said a report on Noor’s training showed no problems.
“This officer completed that training very well,” she said. “He was very suited to be on the street.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of people joined a march in Minneapolis Thursday evening to honor Damond’s life.
Among those gathered to mourn Damond was Valerie Castile, whose son Philando Castile was shot to death by a suburban police officer during a traffic stop in July last year.
Demonstrators paused outside Damond’s home, where Castile hugged Damond’s fiance, Don Damond. Mourners dropped off flowers and handwritten notes in the alley where Damond was shot.