The Twin Cities law enforcement community finds itself in another deadly shooting controversy just days after St. Anthony police offered a buyout to an officer acquitted in the Philando Castile shooting last year [see update]. Late Saturday night, a woman who had called Minneapolis police to report suspicious noises in the area got shot and killed while talking to the responding officers. Justine Damond, an immigrant from Australia, was unarmed at the time — and the body cams that Minneapolis police promised would keep everyone accountable had been inexplicably turned off:
Police say officers were dispatched to a trouble call at around 11:27 p.m. Saturday. There, an officer-involved shooting ensued that resulted in the death of an adult female.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the matter. A release from the BCA Sunday morning said two Minneapolis police officers responded to a 911 call regarding a possible assault just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
At one point, an officer fired a weapon, fatally striking an adult woman. According to the release, the officers’ body cameras were not turned on at the time and the squad camera did not capture the incident.
The Star Tribune reports this morning that the officer in the passenger side of the squad car shot the 40-year-old woman through the driver’s side door. Police didn’t find any weapon on the 40-year-old woman, who had planned to get married soon to her American fiancé:
A 40-year-old woman who family members said called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley behind her home Saturday night was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer. …
Three sources with knowledge of the incident said Sunday that two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley. Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, sources said. No weapon was found at the scene.
According to neighbors, the alley was well lit and officers should have had no trouble seeing Damond as she approached:
From her home in the middle of the block, Justine Damond would have had to walk a little more than 100 yards to get to the end of the alley.
There are three lights mounted on telephone poles along that route plus nine motion-detector lights on garages, and neighbors said the alley is well-lit at night.
The BCA operates independently of the Minneapolis police department and will do a full review of the shooting. If it happened as described, the circumstances seem very, very odd. Why did both officers have their body cams turned off? At least at the moment, the statements from police imply that their dashcam wasn’t operating either. That wouldn’t have caught the shooting on video, but it would have at least captured the conversation in the car and possibly with Damond as well. The circumstances otherwise suggest an accidental discharge of the weapon through the door, but that doesn’t explain why the body cams and dashboard cam weren’t operating.
On its own in isolation, these circumstances would have made residents angry. Combined with the fallout from the Castile shooting and the acquittal of the officer involved in it, and it’s going to get really ugly in the Twin Cities. Most here didn’t buy the “reasonable fear” argument that swayed Yanez’ jury, and they certainly won’t buy a “reasonable fear” argument involving an unarmed woman in her pajamas. The Minneapolis police department has a lot of explaining to do, and don’t be surprised if public pressure results in leadership changes if they can’t provide a convincing explanation for the shooting and the disabled body cams.
Update: My original lead stated that the Minneapolis PD was involved in the Castile shooting; it was the St. Anthony Police Department. St. Anthony Village is an enclave mainly within Hennepin County (home of Minneapolis), but it does have a separate police department. I have corrected the lead paragraph accordingly and apologize for the error.
Update, 7/22: I had erroneously spelled the name of the victim as “Diamond” rather than Damond, an error I saw belatedly when linking back to the post today. I have fixed the spelling, and apologize for the error.