Monday, March 19, 2018
News Roundup

Minneapolis police officer who shot, killed Justine Damond identified, authorities confirm no weapon at scene

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed a 40-year-old woman in the alley behind her home Saturday night has been identified as Officer Mohamed Noor. Meanwhile, state investigators have confirmed that they did not find any weapons at the scene.

Noor, 31, joined the department in March 2015 as the first Somali police officer to patrol the 5th Precinct in southwest Minneapolis, according to a city newsletter.

Chief Janeé Harteau issued a statement Monday afternoon saying she would request a speedy investigation into the shooting, which she called "tragic."

"I have many of the same questions and it is why we immediately asked for an external and independent investigation into the officer-involved shooting death," said Harteau, who is out of the country on vacation but is receiving regular briefings, according to a police spokesperson. "I also want to assure you that I understand why so many people have so many questions at this point. I've asked for the investigation to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can."

Noor has been sued once in his short career with the police department, stemming from a May 25, 2017 incident, in which he and two other officers came to a woman's home and took her to the hospital, which the woman alleges constituted false imprisonment, assault and battery. According to the recently filed and ongoing lawsuit, the officers claimed they had reason to believe the woman was suffering a mental health crisis — which she denied and Noor "grabbed her right wrist and upper arm," exacerbating a previous shoulder injury in the process.

An exchange between police from the night of the shooting, posted by website Minnesota PoliceClips, shows one officer indicating a "female standing behind a building" on Washburn Avenue. Seconds later, another officer reports "shots fired" and "one down" in the same location, and then an officer says he's performing CPR. An officer also notes that there's no suspect at large. It's unclear if the audio is edited or compressed for time.

On Monday, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension confirmed that officers were responding to a 911 call of a "possible assault." "At one point an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman," the news release said. "BCA crime scene personnel located no weapons at the scene."

The BCA confirmed that an autopsy has been completed. After confirming Sunday that there was no body camera or dashcam footage of the incident, the agency said the investigation "does not determine whether a law enforcement agency policy was violated. That would be reviewed through the agency's internal affairs process."

The BCA has not officially named Noor, but a source confirmed that he was the shooter. Attorney Tom Plunkett is representing the officer, but declined to identify him.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that he would decide himself whether Noor is charged in the shooting rather than use a grand jury. He said he believes Noor's body camera should have been running at the time of the shooting.

"I do understand this, they were driving down an alley, the victim approached the car. That's not necessarily a time you must, but frankly I think it's a time you should."

At the same time, a neighborhood has continued to struggle for answers as to what caused the shooting. Family members said Damond called 911 that night to report a possible assault in the alley behind her home.

The morning afterward about 200 people gathered Sunday to mourn Damond. Loving messages remain written in chalk on the sidewalk near the scene, at the end of the alley on W. 51st Street between Washburn and Xerxes avenues S. in the city's Fulton neighborhood. A bouquet of flowers rested on the windshield of an SUV.

Damond, from Sydney, Australia, and her fiancé, Don Damond, lived in the 5000 block of Washburn.

"This is about Justine; it's about Don, a horrific thing has happened in their lives, but it reverberates through the community," said neighbor Richard Burbach, looking on as Australian news crews gathered around the Damond home. "I hope that the global media can continue to put enough focus on this that there is a kind of pressure that will provide an essential ingredient that will change policing, not just in Minneapolis but the country as well."

Gov. Mark Dayton had no comment Monday on the shooting. Law enforcement had previously criticized Dayton for comments he made the day after Philando Castile was killed by former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez.

"Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white?" Dayton asked last year. "I don't think it would have. . On behalf of all decent-minded Minnesotans, we are shocked and horrified. This kind of behavior is unacceptable."

According to the Star Tribune, 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, the Star Tribune reported that those sources said.

"Two Minneapolis police officers responded to a 911 call of a possible assault just north of the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue S. just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday," the BCA said in a news release. "At one point, an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman.

"The BCA's investigation is in its early stages. More information will be available once initial interviews with incident participants and any witnesses are complete. . The officers' body cameras were not turned on at the time and the squad camera did not capture the incident. Investigators are attempting to determine whether any video of the incident exists."

Minneapolis police confirmed that the two officers involved are on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure.

In Minneapolis, police officers are required to wear body cameras any time they could "reasonably anticipate" they will need to record an incident. The policy specifies that officers record any use of force, as soon as it's safe to do so.

The ACLU has called for penalties for the officer's failure to activate body cameras.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges called the shooting "tragic" in a news conference at City Hall late Sunday afternoon, appearing with assistant Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Linea Palmisano, who represents the 13th Ward on the City Council.

"I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by the fatal officer-involved shooting that happened last night," Hodges said.

"I know the neighborhood well," said Hodges, who represented the area for eight years as a City Council member.

"We have few facts at this point," she said. "I want to know more. I call on the BCA to share as much information with all of us as quickly as they can.

"I have questions about why the bodycams weren't on," she said.

Arradondo confirmed that the officer bodycam program is fully rolled out in Minneapolis but declined to say more about why there is no footage of the shooting.

Zach Damond, 22, arrived at the scene with a close family friend about 11:30 a.m. Sunday. While the couple were not yet married, Justine referred to herself as Damond on her personal website. Her maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk.

"Basically, my mom's dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don't know," Zach Damond said, referring to Justine. "I demand answers. If anybody can help, just call police and demand answers. I'm so done with all this violence."

Damond said Justine called police after she "heard a sound in the alley."

He left the scene at noon Sunday to go to the airport to pick up his father, who had been on a business trip.

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.

A woman named Hannah, who came to the scene with Zach Damond and is a close family friend, said Justine was a "spiritual healer." Hannah, 21, did not want her last name used for safety reasons.

"I don't know what she was doing out," Hannah said. "She's such a kind woman. She took me in when I was in a tough situation and helped me with whatever I needed.

"They were just so in love," Hannah said of Justine and Don Damond. "I'm just kind of in disbelief."

At a community vigil in the neighborhood on Sunday night, about 50 friends and neighbors held hands in a semicircle around the spot where Damond fell, while another 200 or more people watched from the sidewalk and the street. Some sobbed.

"This woman was a beautiful light," said Bethany Bradley of Women's March Minnesota, who had been at the scene since Sunday morning. "She was loved. She should still be here.

"It's okay to cry, it's okay to scream," she said. "Share what you're feeling."

Leslie Redmond of the Minneapolis NAACP said she and other members of the NAACP who attended "stand in solidarity with the family."

Nekima Levy-Pounds, one of three mayoral candidates who attended, said, "I hope and pray this is a wake-up call for the community to stop being divided by race and socioeconomic status . for treating everybody with respect."

Dustin Johnson and his wife, Roz, live across the street from Justine and Don Damond. They saw the flashing lights and walked over to see police trying to resuscitate Damond as she lay on the ground.

Johnson said he heard no gunshots.

Justine Damond's website says she "originally trained as a veterinarian" and "has also studied and practiced yoga and meditation for over 17 years, is a qualified yoga instructor, a personal health and life coach and meditation teacher, embracing and teaching the neuro-scientific benefits of meditation."

She attended high school in Sydney. The story of her death was front-page news in Australia.

Earlier Sunday, someone drew colorful chalk hearts on the driveway pad where Damond was shot, adding names of others, including Jamar Clark and Philando Castile, who were fatally shot by police. A few hours later, Hannah, an artist, added "Live in love not fear" to the drawings.

Hannah said there's no way Damond would have had a gun. She often talked about how much better it was in Australia, where people aren't allowed to have guns, Hannah said.

Star Tribune staff writers David Chanen, Libor Jany and Erin Adler contributed to this report. ©2017 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)


Trump: Use death penaltyto get tough on drug dealers

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Unveiling a long-awaited plan to combat the national scourge of opioid drug addiction, President Donald Trump called Monday for stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, including embracing a tactic employed by some of the global str...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Police: Tampa officer shot, wounded while serving arrest warrant

Police: Tampa officer shot, wounded while serving arrest warrant

TAMPA — Two Tampa police officers went early Monday to arrest a man on a warrant that accused him of illegally owning guns and threatening his family.They didn’t know that Walter Richard Jeziorski III had in his home an assault rifle, a pistol and 30...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Two judges rap foreclosure attorney Mark Stopa in start of Florida Bar case

Two judges rap foreclosure attorney Mark Stopa in start of Florida Bar case

CLEARWATER — Local foreclosure defense attorney Mark Stopa acted "rude," "belligerent" and "unstable," to the point that two judges threw him out of their courtrooms.Yet if Stopa sometimes raised his voice too loud, it was only because he was passion...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Addison Barger and Isabella Huff

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Addison Barger and Isabella Huff

Addison Barger, KingBarger, a senior, does just about everything for the Lions. He leads off, plays shortstop and is hitting .452. And on Friday night in the final of the Saladino Tournament against Alonso, he also showed he can pitch.The Lions held ...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Tampa police seek two suspects in hit-and-run that killed pedestrian

Tampa police seek two suspects in hit-and-run that killed pedestrian

TAMPA — Police said they have identified two suspects in a fatal hit-and-run that took the life of an 80-year-old pedestrian who pushed his wife out of harm’s way on Saturday afternoon.Detectives identified Tracy Wood, 31, as the driver and Miriam Ma...
Updated: 1 hour ago
To find manatees, scientists can use DNA from their poop

To find manatees, scientists can use DNA from their poop

Manatees are experts at playing hide and seek. They spend most of their lives underwater, surfacing every five minutes or so to take a breath and then sinking back below the surface.That has always made it hard for biologists to spot them, especially...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Vinik-Cascade partnership looking at port-owned lot for another piece of Water Street Tampa

Vinik-Cascade partnership looking at port-owned lot for another piece of Water Street Tampa

TAMPA — The Jeff Vinik-Cascade Investment partnership is poised to gain control of another 3.4 waterfront acres just west of Channelside Bay Plaza for its massive Water Street Tampa redevelopment project.The land is owned by Port Tampa Bay, and a Vin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Declan Farmer and U.S. sled hockey teammates up for team of the year

Declan Farmer and U.S. sled hockey teammates up for team of the year

Tampa's Declan Farmer and his teammates on the United States sled hockey team are finalists for Best Team of the Paralympic Games, part of the 2018 Team USA Awards.Fans can vote at until April 6.Farmer, 20, helped USA to a third co...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco Sheriff: Man on ‘prolific offender’ list arrested in shooting

Pasco Sheriff: Man on ‘prolific offender’ list arrested in shooting

NEW PORT RICHEY — Deputies arrested a Dunedin man on Sunday who was on the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office’s "prolific offender’’ list.James Edward Boyle, 50, was being held Monday in the Pasco County Jail in lieu of $134,300 bail for 11 felony and mis...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Riverview man yelled ‘Allah Akbar’ in attacks on his children, deputies say

Riverview man yelled ‘Allah Akbar’ in attacks on his children, deputies say

RIVERVIEW — When Walter Ballard ran into his buddy Ronnie Oneal four days ago, nothing about him foreshadowed the horror that was to come."He was good," Ballard recalled. "We were just catching up."Then, on Monday night, Ballard got a call from his 1...
Updated: 1 hour ago