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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)

This undated photo provided by Stephen Govel shows Justine Damond, of Sydney, Australia, who was fatally shot by by police in Minneapolis on Saturday. Authorities say that officers were responding to a 911 call about a possible assault when the woman was shot. [Stephen Govel/www.stephengovel.com via AP]

This undated photo provided by Stephen Govel shows Justine Damond, of Sydney, Australia, who was fatally shot by by police in Minneapolis on Saturday. Authorities say that officers were responding to a 911 call about a possible assault when the woman was shot. [Stephen Govel/www.stephengovel.com via AP]

Minneapolis police officer who shot, killed Justine Damond identified, authorities confirm no weapon at scene 07/17/17 [Last modified: Monday, July 17, 2017 4:28pm]
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