The two Minneapolis police officers who arrived at Justine Damond’s home shortly before midnight on Saturday appeared to be in violation of department policy for not turning on their body cameras and the American Civil Liberties Union is asking why the cameras were turned off, Reuters reported.
Authorities released no new details about what led to the shooting of Damond, whose fiance said she had called 911 to report what she believed was a sexual assault in an alley near her home.
The Hennepin County medical examiner said late Monday that Damond died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Police said officers were responding to a call about a possible assault late Saturday when she was killed. There were no known witnesses other than the two officers in the squad car that showed up. A newspaper report said Damond was shot while standing alongside the car in her pajamas.
The officer, identified by his attorney as Somali-American Mohamed Noor, said in a statement that he came to the U.S. at a young age and that he believes being a police officer is his calling.
Noor allegedly shot and killed Damond, but the body cameras on the responding officers were not activated, and the police car’s camera did not capture the shooting.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, citing three unnamed sources, reported that the police shot Damond through the door of their patrol car.
Her fiancé, Don Damond, said the family has been given almost no additional information about what happened after police arrived.
Almost two days after her death, police offered no public explanation and referred questions to the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which was investigating.
Noor was sued earlier this year after a May 25 incident in which he and other officers took a woman to the hospital on a mental health hold. The lawsuit claims Noor and the other officers violated the woman’s rights when they entered her home without her permission and Noor grabbed her wrist and upper arm. Noor relaxed his grip when the woman said she had a previous shoulder injury, the lawsuit says.
Television station KSTP reported that city records show Noor had three complaints on file. The station did not provide details on the nature of the complaints but said one was dismissed with no disciplinary action and the other two are pending.
Neighbor Joan Hargrave called the killing “an execution” and said there was no reason for a well-trained officer to see Damond as a threat.
“This is a tragedy – that someone who’s asking for help would call the police and get shot by the police,” Hargrave said.
The department has phased in body cameras for all of its officers over the last year. Department policy allows for a range of situations in which officers are supposed to turn cameras on, including “any contact involving criminal activity” and before use of force. If a body camera is not turned on before use of force, it’s supposed to be turned on as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Once the investigation is complete, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman would decide whether to charge the officer. Freeman would not comment on the broader case Monday, but said both officers likely should have turned on their body cameras as they were approached by Damond in an alley.
Police Chief Janee Harteau called the killing a “tragic death” and said she understands why the community has questions. “I’ve asked for the investigation to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can,” she said.
The Fulton neighborhood where the shooting happened is a mix of middle- and upper-middle-class homes about a half-mile from city lakes that are a popular destination for residents and tourists.
Some 50 friends and neighbors gathered in a semicircle Sunday near the shooting site, with many more looking on from the sidewalk and street. Chalk hearts containing the names of some people who were victims of police violence were drawn on the driveway.
By Monday, flowers had also been left at the scene, along with a handwritten sign that asked, “Why did you shoot and kill our neighbor?”
Damond’s business website indicates that she relocated to Minneapolis and worked as a yoga instructor, meditation teacher and personal health and life coach.
Nancy Coune, administrator at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community in Minneapolis, said Damond came to Minneapolis about three years ago to be with her fiancé, and she had been teaching and speaking at the center for more than two years.
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