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Justine Damond

There is not much of consequence going on in the Damond case these days. In this article, I’ll bring everyone up to date on a few developments, and do my best to explain why things are apparently moving so slowly. Minneapolis PD Officer Mohamed Noor killed Justine Damond in Minneapolis on July 15, 2017. More than a month has passed, and no decision on internal MPD action, or criminal prosecution, has been announced.  However, Twin Cities.com tells us it’s going to be a long slog:  

In a Monday statement, County Attorney Mike Freeman said that while the investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is continuing, it typically takes four to six months to render a charging decision in fatal police shootings.

In updates 7,  7.2 and 7.3, I explored in detail the utter lack of probable cause the BCA had for searching Justine Damond’s home after her death, a search that, according to their search warrant return, yielded absolutely nothing. Even The Minneapolis Star Tribune, a newspaper devoted to progressive narratives, couldn’t ignore that issue:

Just past sunrise the morning after a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond, more than a half-dozen state agents piled into the victim’s house on Washburn Avenue, searching for blood, hair, guns, ammunition, knives, drugs or ‘writings’ that would help them understand what happened.

Don Damond, the victim’s fiancé, was still trying to get back to Minneapolis from out of town.

Investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) took nothing from the home, according to the warrant, but the search has provoked anger in southwest Minneapolis.

‘Why would you search someone’s house if something happened in another place and they were killed?’ said Jim Miller, who lives in nearby Linden Hills. ‘This didn’t happen at her house.

Why indeed?

At the time, investigators were unsure of the events leading up to her death,’ [BCA spokesman Jill] Oliveira said. ‘As stated in the warrant, MPD officers involved in the incident were not providing information to investigators at that time.

Even if that were true, and I doubt it, this was not a difficult crime scene full of mysteries. The BCA know precisely where Damond was shot, by whom, and also knew her home had nothing to do with the shooting. The only remaining question was “why?” Even knowing all that, their search warrant affidavit is devoid of probable cause.

People are absolutely outraged about it,’ said Council Member Linea Palmisano, who represents southwest Minneapolis.

Palmisano’s understanding, she said, is that investigators want to rule out alternative explanations for Damond’s death, however far-fetched they might be. But she acknowledged a lingering sense in the neighborhood that BCA agents may have been looking to incriminate Damond.

What nonsense. Did they rule out aliens? Bigfoot? Trump and Russia? As I noted, in virtually every case where police conduct post mortem, probable causeless searches of the property and effects of people killed by police officers, their primary motivation is intelligence gathering. They want to find anything they might use to damage the victim’s reputation or help justify a refusal to prosecute the officers involved. The highly charged politics revolving around this case are unmistakable.

Michael Quinn, a retired Minneapolis police sergeant and CEO of the International Ethics and Leadership Training Bureau, said it’s not standard for police to search the home of the victim.

‘I’m not sure why they decided to get a search warrant for her house. That struck me as odd also,’ said Quinn, who lives a couple of blocks from the scene of the shooting. [skip]

‘I think it’s paranoia to say that they’re in there looking for a reason to excuse the shooting,’ Quinn said.

I suspect Mr. Quinn is imposing his own ethical standards on people who may not have any ethical standards. Thinking the BCA had less than honorable, lawful reasons for their search is not paranoia, but a clear understanding of human nature and how it is influenced by politics. Their own warrant affidavit reveals they had no lawful grounds to search.

Hodges chillin’ with girls from the ‘Hood

Another sideshow was the trip to a Los Angeles fundraiser taken by Mayor Betsy Hodges shortly after Damond’s death. Hodges is not doing well in polling compared to her potential Democrat challengers, and one can reasonably expect politics to have a considerable bearing on any decisions relating to the Damond case.

Mayor Hodges (L), Chief Adrranado (R)

As I’ve already noted, Janee Harteau, a progressive’s dream as police chief–she was female, lesbian, and Indian (American, not the continent)–was forced to resign immediately after Damond’s death. She has since been replaced by another whose being is also supportive of progressive narratives, former assistant Chief Medaria Arrandondo, who is the first black chief of the MPD. He’s not gay or female, but he’ll do for now. According to The Star Tribune, Arrandondo is something of a social justice warrior and once won a $740,000 judgment against the city in a racial discrimination complaint.

Let’s also take a moment to visit Jack Dunphy at PJ Media. Dunphy, a retired LAPD officer–“Dunphy” is not his actual name–often writes on police issues there, as I have done in the past.

The shooting death of Justine Damond, while horrific, involved no complicated circumstances. There can be but two explanations for it, neither of them favorable to Officer Noor. He either shot her accidentally while mishandling his weapon, or he did so deliberately in the mistaken belief she presented a deadly threat.

Sound familiar gentle readers? No competent, rational police officer could come to any other conclusion.

And now the question: Would a reasonable officer have acted as Noor did? This is not merely a theoretical question, for as it happened there was an officer (whom we may presume to be reasonable) seated right next to Noor. Officer Harrity, who was in a position to see and hear the same things Noor did, did not fire his weapon. I would argue that no reasonable officer would have.

That too should also sound familiar. As I’ve repeatedly said, the issue is what a reasonable officer would have done in the same circumstances. The answer is clear: no reasonable officer would have shot Damond.

Assuming that Noor does not present a defense that claims the shooting was accidental, his only hope to avoid a conviction is to find a police use-of-force expert who can persuade the jury that, from Noor’s perspective, Damond’s sudden appearance at the side of the police car, taken together with the loud noise reported by Officer Harrity, constituted a deadly threat. This is laughable, but one can find so-called ‘experts’ to testify to almost anything, and we can expect this sort of testimony in the case should Noor not accept a plea deal and proceed to trial.

The jury won’t buy it, and neither should you. Noor is headed to prison, and deserves it.

What’s not laughable is if Noor is not prosecuted, or if he somehow avoids conviction, the darkly ironic signs seen around the Twin Cities will become precedent: startled police officers may, with impunity, kill innocent citizens.

I concur with Dunphy’s views with one exception: it is not at all clear Noor will be prosecuted, or that he will face interdepartmental discipline. Here’s why:

Were this a case where a citizen shot another citizen in the same circumstances, the shooter would have been arrested and charged within a week, two at the most. If fact, they most likely would have been arrested on the spot.  Were I in Noor’s place (I wouldn’t have shot Damond, but let’s roll with it) I would expect no less. This is not a difficult case, and forensic evidence will have little bearing on it.

When the BCA arrived a few hours after Damond’s death–I’m making a presumption; we still don’t have anything like a complete timeline of the prelude, the shooting and the aftermath–they had a small and easily contained crime scene. Basic police procedure should have mandated the guns and magazines of Officers Harrity and Noor be immediately taken into evidence, therefore, the BCA knew, at the very least one of those two officers shot Damond. They certain knew Noor did it. Harrity gave a complete statement to the BCA. Why wouldn’t he provide preliminary information at the scene to his colleagues, and the BCA? Did no one ask: “What the hell happened?” “Why is this woman dead?” “Who shot her?”  At the very least, MPD officers would have told responding BCA agents what happened, and what happened was very simple: Officer Noor shot Damond; Damond died at the scene.

But couldn’t it take many months to get the results of forensic evidence? Authorities may hide behind that, but it’s a lie. In police involved shootings, any procedural impediment to a rapid resolution of the case is removed. The police know delays will be seen as subterfuge and politics, and they want answers fast.

What evidence could possibly require lengthy processing? Transcripts of the 911 call and radio traffic? That would have been done the morning after Damond’s death, at the latest. That’s nothing more than normal procedure in such cases.

Ballistics? Even if it were necessary to match Noor’s handgun to the bullet–we think there was only one–that killed Damond, assuming it is possible to match it—it’s not like TV; sometimes the bullet is too deformed to be matched–that could be done within a few days at most. Testing of Noor’s, Harrity’s and even Damond’s clothing for gunshot residue is also something that could be done within days, and any competent investigator would want it to be done immediately if not sooner. Ballistics will be a non-issue. Only one gun present was fired. The expended brass was found and entered into evidence. Harrity’s testimony, and the physical evidence, will establish who fired.

Photographs? All digital; no developing; no delay.

Fingerprints? I’m sure the BCA and MPD would want to process for any potential fingerprints Damond might have left on the vehicle as she touched or slapped it, as is the current police narrative, but this too could be done within hours, not days. Because the police vehicle was almost certainly dusty/dirty, it’s unlikely anything identifiable was found.  Again, it’s not like TV; fingerprints seldom solve crimes.

Blood Chemistry? Blood analysis of the officers or Damond could easily be completed within days, and certainly, no more than two weeks. If Damond had any suspicious or illegal substances in her blood, we’d surely know it by now.

Blood Spatter? Such evidence would have been gathered within hours and analyzed within hours, a few days at most. However, considering what we know about the dynamics of the shooting, it’s unlikely this will be a factor.

Witness statements? Harrity was the only witness. The mysterious bicycle rider apparently only saw the officers trying to revive Damond, not the prelude or shooting. Officers would completely canvass the neighborhood trying to find anyone that heard or saw anything, but they would likely come up dry. Most people would be inside air-conditioned homes, and would have heard nothing. Most people have backyard fences and garages in the way, and could have seen nothing. A complete canvass—including follow up interviews–could easily be conducted within a week, two at most.

Medical Examiner’s report? Again, we don’t know the complete timeline, but The Star Tribune was reporting its results on July 18, three days after Damond’s death. There could be follow up exams, but that would be done more or less immediately.

DNA, hair and fibers? To what end? There is no question who was present, and no question about who did what that would make any of these miniscule bits of potential evidence an issue. Even if they were, such things could easily be processed within a few weeks.

Noor’s Statement? He has apparently refused to provide one. The MPD could demand he give one, and nothing he said could be used against him in a criminal trial, however, he could still refuse, and apparently has. If that is indeed the case–any competent defense attorney would see that it was–the MPD could discipline him, even fire him. He cannot be compelled to give a statement that could be used against him in a criminal case. If the MPD has not made such a demand, that’s a significant issue. If they have, Noor refused, and they’ve done nothing, that’s a significant issue.

Evidence from Damond’s home? The BCA claimed to have found nothing. It remains to be seen whether some evidence will magically appear if needed to maintain a narrative. Obviously, until then, there is nothing to slow the process.

Final Thoughts: 

Damond, her fiance Don,(center) and his son, Zach

My usual disclaimer: this case appears to be simple, with an obvious conclusion. However, we are still missing a great deal of information. It’s possible evidence could be revealed that would render Noor’s actions reasonable. It’s hard indeed to imagine what that could possibly be.

A case of this type could easily be wrapped up within two weeks, a month at most. The local prosecutor—Mike Freeman–has reportedly said he will make a charging decision without recourse to a grand jury, which dramatically shortens any possible process. If the BCA and MPD are competent, and we must assume they possess at least average competence, their final reports should have, weeks ago, been in the prosecutor’s hands, and of course, in the hands of local politicians.

Prosecutor Freeman is now claiming he is going to take his time to ensure “transparency and accountability,” but how much time is necessary after the investigation is done? Either the evidence is there to support a charge or it isn’t. As Dunphy suggested, either possibility is a matter of gross negligence. The entirely unnecessary and unjustified death of an innocent woman doesn’t get much more gross or negligent.

What is most likely preventing a swift and normal resolution of the case is politics. Mohamed Noor is clearly a member of at least three progressively protected eternal victim classes: he’s black, an immigrant, and Muslim. To prosecute him would badly damage the Minneapolis Progressive narrative of the wonders of immigration, diversity, race and progressivism in general. It would vindicate the Islamaphobia and privilege of evil white, Christian Minnesotans. If the MPD has actually ignored qualifications, background, and other potential warning flags in recruitment and training, a trial of Noor would be badly damaging to the MPD, including the new Chief who is himself being lauded for being a member of a perpetually protected progressive victim class.

And of course, a prosecution would be damaging to the local progressive flag bearer, Mayor Betsy Hodges, whose praise of Noor has been frequent and fulsome–now embarrassingly so–and who has impeccable progressive credentials she has ridden her entire political career.

Another important factor is Mayor Hodges is going to stand for reelection in early November. There is certainly going to be enormous political pressure to delay any decision until after that election. No matter the decision, someone is going to be outraged, and the Left, more than any.

Potentially the most likely, and related, explanation for the sloth-like pace of this case is the politicians–and in that class we must include prosecutors and the police–are waiting to test the changing political winds. Even in a progressive state like Minnesota, the Damond case is poisonous. They may be waiting as long as they can to see what they can get away with in maintaining the progressive political narrative and still maintain sufficient political power at the local and state levels.

It may be just that simple.