In southwest Minneapolis, Mohamed Noor’s guilty verdict has not mended the trust between community members and the police tasked with protecting them.
Dozens gathered Tuesday evening at Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, where Justine Ruszczyk Damond led meditation classes before Noor fatally shot her in July 2017.
The purpose: a listening session with some of the city’s top leaders, including Mayor Jacob Frey, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Council Member Linea Palmisano.
Many said the Noor trial left them with deeper concerns over the Police Department, including how police are trained, whether officers lied on the stand and the competency of the state agency that investigates police-involved shootings in Minneapolis.
“I’ve lost faith in the system and I feel like it’s opened up so many cracks,” said Minneapolis resident Mindy Barry. “I think we need to open up other cases.”
One speaker said he feared for his children who had been outside the night Damond was shot. Another said she no longer felt safe calling police in her neighborhood. Many expressed concern over statements from police union officials defending so-called “warrior-style” training.
The affluent area of the city is not typically the setting for emotionally charged conversations about police accountability.
The case represents a rare example of a police officer in the United States being found guilty of killing a civilian on duty. Yet many view it as more evidence of a racial double standard in the justice system, suggesting it would have ended differently if Noor wasn’t Somali and Muslim and Damond was not white.
In interviews Tuesday in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, residents expressed discontent over the verdict and costly settlement. The city announced Friday that it reached a record $20 million settlement with Damond’s family.
“You know why he’s guilty?” asked Abdi Hakim, a Somali American who runs a family trucking business. “He’s black and Muslim and an immigrant. The system failed him. It’s obvious.”
“Why do white officers not get charged when they shoot people?” asked Faysal Omar, executive director of East Africa Relief and Rural Development, an organization that assists refugees.
Some at the spiritual center said the case has opened their eyes to issues that civil rights activists have raised for years.
‘Take a wrecking ball’
Prominent among those concerns: Does the Minneapolis Police Department operate with a “blue wall of silence” designed to protect officers accused of wrongdoing?
Arradondo said some police officers do lie, but he rejected the notion that lying is common practice in his department.
“I do not believe that the Minneapolis Police Department has a blue wall of silence,” the chief said, adding that any officer caught lying has “forfeited your right to be a Minneapolis police officer.”
“If we had a wall of silence, I would take a wrecking ball to that wall,” Arradondo said.
Arradondo said the department was reviewing testimony from the trial.
Still, several expressed skepticism in light of revelations in the trial over how police acted after the shooting.
Longtime activist Mel Reeves demanded the city reopen investigations of other fatal police shootings.
In Cedar-Riverside, Omar said white officers get treated differently.
“I know his family,” said Omar, referring to Noor. “They are good people. Mohamed [Noor] had bad luck. He was there at the wrong time at the wrong place.”
Staff writer Randy Furst contributed to this report.