Police chief: Damond shooting "unnecessary ... Justine didn't have to die"

The officer who shot an unarmed woman last weekend in Minneapolis may not yet be talking, but his boss finally is. After several days of silence in which her deputy chief handled media events and inquiries, police chief Janeé Harteau stopped just short of declaring Mohamed Noor guilty in the killing of Justine Damond. Harteau insisted that her department’s training and policies went against Noor’s actions on Saturday night, and that the evidence that has emerged showed that the shooting was “unnecessary”:

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau on Thursday called the shooting death of Justine Damond “unnecessary” and bluntly said it contradicted the mission and training given to her officers.

“Justine didn’t have to die,” Harteau said. …

“Based on the publicly released information from the BCA, this should not have happened,” Harteau said, referring to a preliminary investigative report released earlier in the week. “On our squad cars, you will find the words ‘To protect with courage and serve with compassion.’ This did not happen.

“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 judgments of one individual,” she said.

When asked whether Harteau felt the shooting was unjustified — a specific finding that would prompt criminal charges — Harteau demurred. “That’ll be part of the criminal investigation,” she replied, referring to the independent probe by Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Despite that response, Harteau had effectively made that point without saying it explicitly.

Officer Matthew Harrity didn’t escape criticism either, although not by name. Harteau declared that both officers should have activated their body cams before arriving on scene, hinting at disciplinary action for Noor’s partner:

Harteau did note that the body-cam program has only been in place for eight months, and that officers are still getting used to the devices and the need to activate them. That will certainly be a point that will come up in the inevitable litigation against the city of Minneapolis, and that process has already started. The Damond family has hired an attorney with whom local police departments will be very familiar (via Jenn Jacques):

Harteau’s press conference came hours after an attorney who represented another police shooting victim in Minnesota said Damond’s family had hired him.

The lawyer, Bob Bennett, reached a nearly $3 million settlement in June for the family of black motorist Philando Castile from the St. Paul, Minnesota, suburb of St. Anthony. Castile was shot and killed in July 2016 during a traffic stop. …

He added that the family would wait until officials complete their investigation of the shooting before deciding whether to file a civil lawsuit.

Through it all, Noor has yet to make a statement about the shooting, to police or to the media. As noted before, it’s a smart move to keep silent in the immediate aftermath of a shooting until one can consult an attorney and get past the shock of the traumatic event, advice which is good for both civilians and police officers alike. Once that happens, though, a person involved in a justifiable shooting should be able to make a statement through their lawyer to explain what happened, and it’s telling that Noor and his attorney have not yet done so. Noor has the right to remain silent, of course, but it certainly looks as though neither he nor his attorney have an explanation that won’t land Noor in prison.

Harteau called out Noor on this point, too:

Harteau said she wishes Noor would reconsider his decision to refuse to be interviewed by investigators, because “there are questions that need to be answered and he is the only one that has those answers.”

Noor’s friends reportedly say that he’s accusing the police department of throwing him under the bus. That seems to be accurate, and at the moment it looks justified.