Monday, July 17, 2017

Minneapolis PD - Bullets Over Common Sense?

Justine Damond, 40, shot & killed by a
Minneapolis cop on Saturday - why?
Well it's been all of 25 days since my last post about the alarming rate of unjustified fatal shootings and use of unnecessary physical force by police officers in Minnesota, and once again members of the Minneapolis Police Department are making global headlines for what appears to be yet another killing of an unarmed civilian.

The latest victim is Justine Damond, a 40-year-old woman from Sydney, Australia who was engaged to be married in August to a Minneapolis man named Don Damond.

When I read Gerry Mullany and Isabella Kwai's article in the New York Times this morning it left me feeling sickened and frustrated.

Not at the thousands of members of Minnesota law enforcement who risk their lives to protect the public in accordance with standards of a code of conduct and a sense of professionalism.


What's upsetting is that despite all the media attention and public outrage generated from multiple officers from various police departments in Minnesota choosing to fire their weapons and use deadly force in instances where it was not justified or necessary, innocent people who are unarmed and not threatening the lives of police officers (or anyone else) are still being killed by those sworn to serve and protect.

Remember, in 2015 multiple witnesses claimed that Jamar Clark had both his hands handcuffed behind his back and was lying face down on the ground after a scuffle with paramedics when one of two Minneapolis PD officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, shot him in the head at point blank range.

Just ten days ago it was announced that the city of St. Anthony, Minnesota had agreed to pay former St. Anthony PD officer Jeronimo Yanez a $48,500 severance package as part an agreement for his having been fired for his role in the highly-publicized fatal shooting of school cafeteria manager Philando Castile in 2016 - one of 13 fatal police shootings in Minnesota in 2016.

While Castile did have a handgun on him when he was stopped for a non-working brake light, it was inside the pocket of his shorts and he politely informed Yanez he had the gun on him before Yanez began firing shots directly into the car 74 seconds after pulling Castile over after misidentifying him as a robbery suspect - the permit for the handgun was also found in his pocket after Yanez had fired seven shots.

Despite the video evidence and audio recordings of the shooting, a mostly-white jury found Yanez not guilty and sadly, it looks like race and ethnicity are going to play a role in the death of Justine Damond as well.

Minneapolis PD officer Mohamed Noor
According to an article from local Twin Cities affiliate KSTP, the officer who pulled the trigger and fired the fatal shots has been tentatively identified as Mohamed Noor - a college graduate who joined the force back in 2015.

As many of you know, for years the Minneapolis area has been home to a large population of Somali-born people who've immigrated to the United States.

Noor is reportedly the first police officer of Somali descent to join the Minneapolis PD.


Frankly, having seen so many instances of race playing a factor in the legal outcome of cases of unjustified police shootings when the victim was African-American, it will be interesting to see how the fact that Noor, who is of African descent, and the civilian he shot and killed was a blond-haired white woman, will impact the investigation.

Don't get me wrong, I've made it clear on this blog that I'm of the belief that all police officers should be held legally responsible in cases where a fatal shooting or beating was not justified - particularly in cases where the victim was innocent.

By all accounts, Damond called 911 around 11:27pm Saturday to report a possible assault in an alley near the home she was in - when the squad car arrived, Noor was in the passenger seat when pointed his weapon and fired across his the driver, officer Matthew Harrity, striking and killing Damond.

Did he mistake the cell phone found near her body for a weapon?

Why fire shots at all if he was still sitting in the car?

Minneapolis PD Chief Janee Harteau & Mayor
Betsy Hodges at a press conference
The circumstances of the case are different but it reminds me of 24-year-old college student Jonathan Ferrell being tasered and shot ten times by Charlotte PD officer Randall Kerrick back in 2014 after Ferrell crashed his car.

He saw Kerrick's squad car arrive and walked towards it thinking he was there to help and ended up dead.

Did Damond see the Harrity and Noor's squad car arrive on Saturday night and walk towards it thinking they were there to help her?


Despite calls from outraged neighbors calling for a federal investigation into the shooting, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it abundantly clear that the resources of the Justice Department under Trump will not be used to investigate wrongdoing by local police officers.

So this investigation will be conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Minneapolis PD itself.

One question on many people's minds is why officer Noor's police body cam was turned off at the time of the shooting - 600 of the cameras were issued in the wake of the high-profile police shootings that have taken place in Minneapolis since 2012.

What good are those cameras if police officers simply turn them off whenever they want to?

Frankly I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the Minnesota BCA or the Minneapolis PD to answer that question, their conclusions in cases of unjustified police shootings usually boil down to finding no wrongdoing on the part of officers who choose to use deadly force over common sense.

Whether that trend changes, or a jury feels differently based on the race of both the officer and the victim in this case remains to be seen.

Either outcome could potentially be problematic.

Regardless, Don Damond's son Zach Damond summed up the feelings of millions people about unjustified used of deadly force by police officers both here and around the world when he told reporter's, "This has got to stop. This has got to stop."

Justine Damond, Philando Castile and others deserved better - and members of law enforcement in Minneapolis and around the U.S. need to start holding their professional training and conduct to a higher standard.

The excuse that an officer "feared" for his or her life as a blanket excuse for a bad decision didn't cut it in the case of Philando Castile, and won't cut it in the case of Justine Damond either - yet another death caused by poor decision making and a rush to fire bullets rather than using some common sense.

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