After Mohamed Noor was charged Tuesday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Justine Damond, we asked you for your questions on the case. Abby Simons, our public safety team editor who has led our coverage of this case since Damond was shot outside her south Minneapolis home in July, answered them.
Q: The facts of this case virtually screamed murder or manslaughter. What on earth accounts for the delay in bringing charges? submitted by John Hibbs
A: Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said last year that he would make a charging decision before the end of 2017, but at the end of the year he said he would need more time, saying “the investigation and review of the case will not be rushed. It is more important to get it right than to get it done quickly.” Freeman was caught on video in December saying investigators “haven’t done their job.” He later convened a grand jury to gather additional evidence, saying he was forced to do so because some Minneapolis police officers refused questioning.
Q: Is the City now responsible because they ‘ fast tracked’ this officer onto the police force? And why would we ‘ fast track’ anyone into any profession? submitted by Steve Johnson
A: Noor graduated in 2015 from the city’s accelerated police cadet program. The seven-month training is a quicker, nontraditional route to policing aimed at helping those who already have a college degree enter law enforcement, experts say. Some law enforcement professionals say the cadet program and others like it are exactly what policing needs — a way to attract more diverse people with broader life experiences. The Minneapolis Police Department has struggled in recent years with a shrinking pool of applicants for job openings. A pension change that spurred a wave of retirements among peace officers statewide in 2014 dropped Minneapolis police ranks to their lowest total in nearly 30 years, and the department was faced with hiring nearly 100 officers.
If the Damond family files a wrongful-death lawsuit, the city of Minneapolis could be named as a defendant.
Q: Why was Mohamed Noor allowed to “not” make a statement? I understand that he had that right with investigators, but not with his employer. If he also refused to make a statement to his employer (which could not be used against him in court), why was he not fired for that transgression? submitted by anonymous
A: Correct, Noor has a constitutional right not to talk with BCA investigators. In Minnesota, public employees under internal investigation are now read a Garrity Warning, which says that though they are not legally required to say anything, their employer requires it. If an employee doesn’t cooperate, or fails to tell the truth, they could get fired. But the statement makes clear that any information gathered during an interview can’t be used in a criminal case. If Minneapolis police opened an internal investigation in the shooting, he would be required to talk if he wants to keep his job. However, since Noor has been fired on the day he was charged with the shooting, he has nothing to lose by not talking. That said, the president of the Minneapolis Police Federation said they may file a grievance to challenge Noor’s firing. Read more here.
Q: I am curious how these charges align with other charges relating to deaths by MPD. What happened with Jamar Clark? How do know Justine wasn’t dangerous? Mentally ill? Potentially carrying a weapon? Did anything happen with the reported rape? … Office Noor and Hannity both feared for their lives. That’s enough right? ... What did the Police Union say about Clark’s death? submitted by Molly Jergens
A: Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman elected not to file charges in the death of Jamar Clark, saying that evidence showed Clark was attempting to grab Officer Mark Ringgenberg’s gun, forcing Officer Dustin Schwarze to shoot Clark in the head.
We know Justine was unarmed. There were no indications that she was mentally ill. Officers found no evidence of a sexual assault. Noor has not spoken to investigators, but according to charges Harrity said he “perceived his life was in danger.” If the case goes to trial, a jury will make the decision whether the shooting was justified.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the union representing police, said that when the officers were cleared of wrongdoing by the department that they “can begin to put this unfortunate event behind them and focus on their careers.” He added, “We expect all members of the public to accept the process and outcome.”
Q: Now that the Minneapolis PD has finally fired officer Noor, did they give him separation money? Has the family of the victim already filed a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis PD? submitted by Steve Adams
A: There’s no indication that Noor was paid any kind of separation money. The Damond family has not yet filed a lawsuit, but they have retained an attorney.
Q: Wouldn’t the testimony of Officer Noor’s partner as to Noor’s emotional state be hearsay? I don’t see how they can use this defense unless Office Noor is willing to take the stand and testify, something I’m guessing his lawyer will advise strongly against. submitted by David Gustafson
A: Charges against Noor don’t reference any perception of Noor’s emotional state, just his actions. But if Harrity is asked about Noor’s emotional state or what he said after the shooting, it could be challenged by Noor’s defense attorney. Noor has the option whether or not to testify in his own defense. He has elected not to speak with investigators.
Q: Why is there a Somali-American Police Assn., what is their purpose why isn't there a police assn for all the other races? submitted by anonymous
A: The Somali-American Police Association lists their mission here. There are police associations for all kinds of ethnic groups, including Asian officers, Black officers, Native Americans, Hispanic officers and others.
Q: Why didn't Damond stay in her home until police knocked on her door?submitted by anonymous
A: Police likely weren’t going to knock on her door as they cleared the call after driving through the alley and found nothing. According the 911 transcript, Damond was never told to stay in the house.
Q: Why was a search warrant asked for and issued for searching victims home? submitted by John Foster
A: According to this August article, the warrant for the Damond home was granted by District Judge Laurie Miller at 5:38 a.m. on July 16, the morning after the shooting, and state agents searched the home at 6:30 a.m. They wanted to give prosecutors the most complete picture possible, BCA spokesperson Jill Oliveira said, and there could have been clues in the house. “At the time, investigators were unsure of the events leading up to her death,” Oliveira said. “As stated in the warrant, MPD officers involved in the incident were not providing information to investigators at that time.” Bob Bennett, the lawyer who represented the Castile family and is representing Don Damond, said he has no problem with the search of the Damond home, since Justine Damond’s call to police about a possible assault nearby emanated from there.“There’s a more logical tie to a search warrant there,” Bennett said. “If I was in charge of the investigation, I would have ordered it done.”
Q: Why are regular comments turned off on this story? submitted by anonymous
A: The Star Tribune doesn’t allow comments on crime stories. We aim to have our comments be a platform of rigorous debate and thoughtfulness, but in the past comments on crime stories often blamed the victim and were based on racial prejudice. Here are some of the comments readers submitted using the form provided.