MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Five days after the police shooting of Justine Damond in south Minneapolis, Police Chief Janee Harteau has spoken publicly for the first time.
Harteau has been out of town since Saturday’s shooting, but returned to work on Thursday.
The Australian native was shot to death by a Minneapolis police officer Saturday night, after she called police to get help for a woman she thought was being attacked in an alley near her home. Damond was shot as she came up to the squad’s driver side window, by Officer Mohamed Noor.
Harteau has been under growing pressure to speak out about her department’s officer involved shooting. Some were questioning why she wouldn’t cut her vacation short and return with answers.
Chief Harteau addressed reporters just after 5 p.m., saying she was backpacking in the mountains, making it very difficult to return sooner. And she was crystal clear that the shooting was not justified – and said that Thursday morning when she spoke with Justine Damond’s fiance.
Harteau also said the body cameras, which were not on at the time of the shooting, should have been activated. Likewise, squad car cameras did not capture what happened.
Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity, told investigators that he and Noor heard a loud noise immediately before Damond approached the squad car.
“Justine didn’t have to die. Based on the BCA information, this should not have happened. We’re talking about the actions of one individual,” Harteau said.
Damond, 40, was a yoga teacher and meditation instructor. The native Australian was slated to be married next month.
Earlier this week, Harteau called Damond’s death “clearly tragic.” She said that she, like the rest of the public, was awaiting answers as to what happened Saturday night.
We also obtained a statement from Officer Noor’s attorney, Tom Plunkett. He says Noor has no plans to talk with investigators.
Yet, he could still be forced to if police ordered a “garrity” – where an employee can be ordered to give a statement.
Finally, he will ask for a coroner’s report with an outside lab – saying it would be nice to know if there was Ambien in her system. On that, he didn’t elaborate.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is conducting the investigation. Harteau said she’s asked that the process be expedited to provide transparency.