Minneapolis residents questioned Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman on Sunday afternoon about the police shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, including why officer Mohamed Noor wasn’t sitting in jail as a civilian would be after a deadly shooting.
“I don’t understand where this double standard comes from,” said Todd Schuman, who lives a block from the Damond home. “It’s infuriating to us.”
Freeman said he couldn’t answer the question because he hadn’t thought about it “quite that way” before.
Damond, 40, a native of Australia who was engaged to be married, was killed July 15 when she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her Fulton neighborhood home. Noor fired at her as she approached the squad car he was riding in.
Since then, her friends and neighbors have demanded information about the investigation, which is being conducted by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Their tones ranging from angry to curious, about 50 southwest Minneapolis residents gathered in a park building to talk with Freeman and Linea Palmisano, the Minneapolis City Council member representing the 13th Ward. The event was one of a series of neighborhood forums regularly held by Palmisano.
Freeman told the group that he couldn’t say much about the Damond case specifically, especially regarding evidence collected.
But Damond’s shooting shouldn’t have happened, Freeman said.
“I’m saddened by the death of this fine young woman,” Freeman said. “It didn’t have to happen. It shouldn’t have happened.”
His job is to determine whether Noor has done something criminal, Freeman said, and whether there is enough admissible evidence to support a charge.
Residents also asked what the BCA was looking for at the Damond home when they searched it the morning after the killing; some people saw it as invasive and unnecessary.
Palmisano said she had received that question several times. Sometimes police are just eliminating possibilities of what could have happened, she said.
Freeman commented: “I really can’t answer that. There will be an answer down the road.”
Several times, Freeman referred to other high-profile officer-involved shootings, like the Jamar Clark case in Minneapolis and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, as examples of how things might proceed.
In a surprise, Freeman shared his thoughts on the outcome of the Castile case, which ended in officer Jeronimo Yanez’s acquittal three months ago.
“That jury was wrong,” Freeman said, adding that Yanez was a good cop who panicked.
Freeman also used the Jamar Clark case for context. It took six months to make a charging decision in the case of Clark, who was shot in north Minneapolis in November 2015. Freeman said that, in the end, he couldn’t charge the two police officers in Clark’s death. That decision spawned months of protests and continues to be a sore spot.
The decision of whether to charge Noor will likely be made by the end of the year, Freeman said.
Residents also asked questions about body cameras, which weren’t on during the Damond shooting, and how residents could become more involved and make changes in the system.
Several expressed general frustration with law enforcement. “The police have lost our faith completely,” said Mindy Barry, Damond’s neighbor. “In our mind, true justice in this case is police reform.”
One man thanked Freeman “for being here and being vulnerable.”
The BCA is still investigating the Damond case, Freeman said.
“We will spare no time and no expense trying to learn everything that occurred,” he said. “People have been pushing me … I ain’t going to be pushed.”
Staff writer Pat Pheifer contributed to this report.