MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A family on the city’s southwest side feels heartbroken and left in the dark following a deadly-officer involved shooting.
They say police are giving them little information while the BCA continues to investigate the death of Justine Damond.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner says the 40-year-old died from a gunshot wound to the stomach in an alley near her southwest Minneapolis home late Saturday night.
Her loved ones said she called 911 after hearing what she thought was a sexual assault in the alley. Moments later, a responding officer shot and killed her from inside his squad car.
Standing on the block where he’s lived for 19 years, Joe Burns can’t recall a time when he’s seen such a swarm of journalists packing the street let alone the tragic reason why.
“We haven’t ever had anything like this happen,” he said.
Saturday night, Justine Damond was shot and killed at the end of the alley near 51st Street West, not far from a chalk-drawn heart outlining her name.
Burns lost a neighbor. The spiritual community lost a healer. Don Damond lost his fiancé.
“We are desperate for information,” Don said during a news conference outside his home. “Piecing together Justine’s last moments before the homicide would be a small comfort as we grieve this tragedy.”
WCCO learned Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity responded to the 911 call that Damond’s family said she made that night.
WCCO also learned that when she approached the squad car, Officer Noor reached across his partner in the driver’s seat, then shot and killed Damond.
Both officers had body cameras but they weren’t turned on.
“We all know that having video evidence is very helpful,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.
While he wouldn’t comment directly on the case, Freeman said if officers have body cameras he would like them to be turned on.
“As a person involved criminal justice system, I want all the evidence I can get all the time. So if the (officer) has the camera on, that’s going to add additionally to the information I have,” he said when it comes to determining if charges should be filed in a case.
Freeman said he understands people want the case to move quickly and that the investigation is still in the early stages.
But its pace is hurting Damond’s family and leaving neighbors wondering how to move forward.
“I’m not afraid to call 911 but maybe some people are,” said Burns. “I mean (Damond) did everything right. And so next time you hear something out in the alley maybe you call a neighbor, maybe you call a friend.”
Both officers involved in the case are on administrative leave.
The BCA said once it finishes its interviews with the officers, more information will be released.
Officer Noor’s attorney Thomas Plunkett released a statement. He said in part:
“Officer Noor extends his condolences to the family and anyone else who has been touched by this event. He takes their loss seriously and keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers. He came to the US at a young age and is thankful to have had so many opportunities. He takes these events very seriously because for him being a police officer is a calling. He entered the police force to serve the community and to protect the people he serves. Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves and he empathized with the loss others are experiencing. The current environment for police is difficult but Officer Noor accepts this as part of his calling. We would like to say more and will in the future. At this time however, there are several investigations that are ongoing. More importantly Officer Noor wants to respect the privacy of the family and asks the same in return during this difficult period.”
Somali Community Reacts
Noor was the first Somali-American officer to join the Minneapolis Police Department’s 5th Precinct team. He joined the department in March 2015. Before that, he worked in property management.
Mohamud Noor, who has no direct relation to the officer involved in the shooting, is the executive director of the Confederation of the Somali Community in Minnesota.
“There is a shock that is happening that a Somali police officer shot and killed a woman in Minneapolis,” Noor said. “When he joined the force, everyone was excited. We’re all excited when police officers look like the people that they serve. It opens a big door, whereby you feel welcome, you can trust, build that relationship. But this tragedy that happened separates that relationship from what the people are expecting.”
Officer Noor and Officer Harrity have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure following an officer-involved shooting.