A dumb statement, assuming that Tom Plunkett made it in the first place, at a time when his client hardly needs any more bad press. The attorney for Mohamed Noor, the police officer who shot and killed an unarmed Justine Damond, allegedly told Minnesota’s CBS affiliate on Thursday that Noor will not cooperate with the investigation, unless forced to do so. However, Plunkett reportedly said he’s very interested in the toxicology analysis from Damond’s autopsy to see whether she took any sleeping medication before calling police to report sounds of an assault in the neighborhood:
Noor’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, also gave a statement Thursday, saying that Noor has no plans to talk with investigators.
However, he could be forced to give a statement if there’s a garrity – where an employee can be ordered to give a statement.
Plunkett also wants a coroner’s report with an outside lab, saying “it would be nice to know if there were some Ambien in [Damond’s] system.”
On that, he didn’t elaborate.
Er … some elaboration would definitely be required. So what if Damond did take Ambien? Its side effects can include some odd behaviors, such as sleepwalking and night eating, but neither of those present a lethal danger to others, especially police who are presumed to be responsible enough to defuse odd situations. The speculation that Damond might have taken some widely used sleep medication created an angry backlash, especially in Damond’s native Australia:
Later, Plunkett claimed that this was a “misquote,” but WCCO has not retracted the quote yet. The family lashed out at Plunkett, calling the suggestion “sickening”:
“It was absolutely sickening, and that’s the game these lawyers play, to try to attack the victim,” family spokesman Tom Hyder told News Corp Australia.
“My stomach turned when I heard that.
“Justine was someone who only ate organic, she watched everything she ever put into her body. She is not someone who would have used drugs.”
Mr Plunkett’s statement plays into the likely defence he is building for client, who faces a possible murder charge, that he feared he was being “ambushed” and fired in fear of his life.
If Plunkett wants to shift the focus from Noor, attacking the victim is probably not the most effective way of doing so, unless evidence emerges that Damond had a weapon on her at the time. Perhaps he might rely more on the quality of preparation Noor got for the job, an issue that has been raised since the shooting took place. This weekend, the Star Tribune confirmed that Noor got “fast-tracked” into his job using an accelerated training program that has raised questions for a while:
The officer who fatally shot Justine Damond graduated in 2015 from the city’s accelerated police cadet program. The seven-month training is a quicker, nontraditional route to policing aimed at helping those who already have a college degree enter law enforcement.
The Minneapolis program covers tuition at Hennepin Technical College and pays trainees a $20-an-hour salary with benefits while they work to get licensed. After that their salary bumps up.
The program’s defenders call it an effective way to get more cops on the beat sooner, an issue in Minneapolis after a pension change three years ago prompted a large wave of retirements. The program’s academic coursework operates in tandem with the Department of Natural Resources and the State Patrol, neither of which work specifically in patrolling urban areas. The practical curriculum may focus too much on a paramilitary approach, say critics:
James Densley, who teaches criminal justice at Metropolitan State University, said he thinks too many cadet programs are “all tactics and no strategy,” overemphasizing assessing threats and conducting tactical protocols.
“The cadet program is rigorous, no doubt, but it is also an immersive paramilitary experience, taught by practitioner faculty without advanced degrees, and I suspect it leaves students with a limited view of the profession,” Densley said.
Minneapolis has managed to fill its open slots, but it has at least correlated to a drop in public trust in the police department. In the wake of the Damond shooting, another in which two dogs were shot, and the Philando Castile shooting by neighboring St. Anthony Village police, Twin Cities residents have the distinct impression of a trigger-happy policing environment. A protest via signs sprang up this weekend (via Jenn Jacques):
Snelling and University. pic.twitter.com/9QngWsBfJo
— Addy Free (@addyfree) July 23, 2017
Around midday on Sunday, Addy Free was returning home from his work as an assistant registrar at Macalester College in St. Paul. Free had just stepped off a bus when he spotted what appeared to be an official traffic sign… until he got a closer look.
Free says another passenger who got off the same bus stopped also stopped to snap a picture of the sign, which was on the corner of Snelling Ave. and University Ave. Free says he doesn’t have any idea who made it, and didn’t see anything when he checked the back to see if the vandal had taken credit. …
Another sign was spotted in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, the Star Tribune reports. A spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department said they were aware of the signs, and had no comment.
The signs are posted illegally, and will almost certainly come down soon. It will take a lot longer to outlive the reputation.
Update: Plunkett’s reference to “a Garrity action” on Noor seems a bit odd, too. It refers to a Supreme Court case (Garrity v New Jersey) in which the court upheld the right to remain silent for police officers and other government employees in administrative investigations who might be at risk for criminal prosecution. It’s obscure enough that several sources claim contradictory purposes for the warning. Most agree it is some form of immunization against the use of a statement taken in an administrative investigation to pursue criminal charges.
Plunkett seems to assume, with this reference, that the Damond shooting will be relegated to administrative discipline — or maybe is using the media to offer an immunity-for-cooperation deal. When an unarmed citizen who presented no danger to the officer gets shot dead anyway, that assumption certainly looks … optimistic. Don’t bet on a “garrity action,” and more importantly, don’t bet on Noor’s cooperation in the future with this investigation.
But remember, under the rules established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor, an officer may use force only when it is reasonably necessary to defend himself or another from death or serious injury. And, said the court, a use of force must be judged “from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” If an officer fires at someone whom he reasonably believes is a threat, even if that belief proves to be mistaken, the shooting will be deemed lawful.
And now the question: Would a reasonable officer have acted as Noor did? This is not merely a theoretical question, for as it happened there was an officer (whom we may presume to be reasonable) seated right next to Noor. Officer Harrity, who was in a position to see and hear the same things Noor did, did not fire his weapon. I would argue that no reasonable officer would have.
Assuming that Noor does not present a defense that claims the shooting was accidental, his only hope to avoid a conviction is to find a police use-of-force expert who can persuade the jury that, from Noor’s perspective, Damond’s sudden appearance at the side of the police car, taken together with the loud noise reported by Officer Harrity, constituted a deadly threat. This is laughable, but one can find so-called “experts” to testify to almost anything, and we can expect this sort of testimony in the case should Noor not accept a plea deal and proceed to trial.
The jury won’t buy it, and neither should you. Noor is headed to prison, and deserves it.
Update: I have been writing “Michael Noor” all week for some reason, and usually catch myself before the posts publish. Not today! I’ve fixed it above, and thanks to Twitter follower Danee Garone for catching it. My apologies.