In his first public comments since the shooting of Justine Damond, Gov. Mark Dayton called the death a “horrible” tragedy but said he had no additional information to draw conclusions about what happened.
Dayton said Wednesday that he left a message expressing his condolences to Damond’s fiancé, Don Damond, and another message with the Australian consulate in Chicago offering any assistance he could.
Dayton noted that Officer Mohamed Noor, who shot Justine Damond, had not yet spoken with authorities. Asked if Noor should subject himself to an interview, he said, Noor “has constitutional rights as well as state law about decisions to speak or not speak, so I’m not going to comment on it.”
He added that he has been updated several times by state Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman.
Dayton revealed that the interview between BCA agents and Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity, lasted four hours. Still, he said, “There’s a paucity of information.” “To the best of my knowledge, there are only two living eyewitnesses. One, who spoke yesterday to BCA officials about four hours, and the other, who has declined to be interviewed and he’s obviously the key person in this investigation,” he said. “I haven’t heard anymore than what has been reported.”
He said that BCA was on the site of the shooting in southwest Minneapolis “almost immediately.” “I think the BCA is also stymied by a lack of information,” he said. “I think everybody wants answers.”
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said any type of violent incident between police and citizens is “incredibly unfortunate,” but said he’d reserve judgment on the latest shooting until more information about the incident is released.
Daudt said he expects the Legislature to take up discussions around police body cameras in the future. But he said earlier talks have often turned controversial, as lawmakers seek to balance public safety needs and privacy rights of people who are filmed.
The speaker voiced his support for law enforcement officers across the state, and urged Minnesotans to do the same.
“This isn’t easy when it happens for folks in uniform,” he said. “I encourage people to show support.”
Dayton declined to draw parallels between Damond’s death on Saturday and the police shootings of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile. Both men were black.
“I’m concerned [about] any incident,” he said.
Dayton’s comments come after he was the subject of police ire following public comments made last year after the shooting of Castile.
“Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white?” Dayton asked at the time. “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.”
He also received pushback from law enforcement by calling for a new $12 million police training fund to be named after Castile. He then met with law enforcement officials to discuss how to improve race relations and other aspects of crime and policing.
The incident, he said, underscored the value of the training program approved by lawmakers.
“That’s why I think this training is so important,” he said. Police officers “are making split-second decisions and making the right decisions ... They are working day and night to keep us safe and I think in 99.999 percent [of the time] law enforcement officers perform admirably and with restraint.
Staff writer Erin Golden contributed to this report.