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Justine Damond

Regular readers have been asking why it has been some time since I’ve written on the Justine Damond case. It’s not because I’ve lost interest, far from it. I do my best not to clog the blogsphere with idle speculation. The Lamestream Media does that so well. I tend only to write when I have something hopefully meaningful to say, when there is actual news about which to report or comment. In the Damond case, since the BCA’s completed report went to Mike Freeman, the local prosecutor on or about September 12, 2017 (Damond was killed on July 15, 2017), the nation has been waiting for his decision. Freeman has publically stated he expects to have a charging decision by the end of 2017, which, if accurate, would be approximately five months from the day Damond was killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor.

Mike Freeman

I addressed the issue in Update #10: He Ain’t Going To Be Pushed:   

Let us assume, gentle readers, there are no follow up issues that must be addressed. How long should it take for any competent prosecutor to make a decision? Two weeks, and I’m being generous. But for the sake of argument, let’s give Freeman a month. He has until October 13 to make a decision. There is no legal, professional reason a charging decision in such a straightforward case could not be accomplished in all that time. Yet Freeman is saying it could take as much as three and a half months to render a decision. Why?

The only possibility is politics, and particularly the Minneapolis Mayoral election in November.   Progressives always play identity politics, and there can be no doubt the progressive establishment fears charges against Noor, charges that might turn the Somali, the immigrant, even the black, vote against them enough to deny them office. Additionally, they fear public revelation of potential diversity hires, hires that kill. Such information may well come out in a trial. As I’ve repeatedly said, we do not know if that was the case with Noor, but the laudatory treatment with which he has been favored by Mayor Betsy Hodges and the political establishment indicates the political capital local progressives have invested in this part of their favored narrative. Progressives are not good at admitting error, and absolutely do not do it willingly or gracefully.

It may come down to whether progressives think delaying the decision will be more harmful to them than announcing it in a timely, professional manner. And of course, that depends on whether the decision will be made based on the rule of law or social justice.

The November mayoral election has come and passed, as have more than two months since I posted that article on September 13. Mayor Betsy Hodges, who loves her some Somalis, has been replaced by Minneapolis Council member, lawyer Jacob Frey, also a Democrat. He will take office on Jan. 02, 2018. Frey was very critical of not only Hodges, but the MPD, as this July 25, 207 report reveals:

Minneapolis Mayor-Elect Jacob Frey
credit: mndally,co.

Frey, who finished second at the DFL convention and called for police Chief Janeé Harteau’s ouster the day before she resigned, said the city needs not just a new police chief but a new mayor.

‘We need massive reform, not tomorrow, not next week. We need it today,’ Frey said. ‘There’s a total lack of confidence in the mayor’s office and the Minneapolis Police Department right now. People need to feel comfortable calling 911.’

Frey said the Police Department must presume misconduct when body cameras are not activated, as happened when officer Mohamed Noor fired his gun through an open patrol car window, killing Damond. He said police must be trained to exhaust all reasonable alternatives before using deadly force, and the department should use technology that automatically activates body cameras, perhaps when an officer draws his or her gun.

‘This is clear, objective reform that needs to take place,’ Frey said.

Whether Frey is actually concerned with actual, practical reforms, or was merely saying what he needed to say to depose Hodges has yet to be seen. He was still making the same arguments at a community question session in early September, 2017, including the ancient theme of requiring police officers to live within Minneapolis city limits. The rationale for this sort of policy is officers living in the city will supposedly be more invested in the city. It’s a policy in place in parts of America. Unfortunately, police officers are often not well paid, and the cost of living in larger cities is commonly much higher than in the surrounding suburbs. Frey’s other responses suggest he will be no different than Hodges:

Real change, he said, requires real training, recruitment from within the city and within communities of color and proper funding for community policing. He did not commit to retaining Arradondo when his term expires one year into the next mayor’s term.

One of the most significant issues in the Damond case revolves around the possibility the Minneapolis PD engaged–and engages–in diversity hiring, taking short cuts in recruitment, training, and hiring of officer candidates merely to ensure pre-determined racial, Democrat-favored victim group levels, rather than seeking to hire the most qualified, capable people. Nationally, police agencies are actually ignoring the criminal records of minority applicants, including drug use and convictions, to get the proper racial balance of these badly flawed personalities on their forces. There is some evidence to suggest Mohamed Noor was a diversity hire, and even that he was retained despite multiple complaints against him in a short period of time. Hodges particularly, publically praised Noor for his national origin, ethnicity and religion–Islam. It would seem Frey is also dedicated to diversity hiring, which, considering his political pedigree and the nature of Minneapolis politics, is hardly surprising.

Damond’s Minneapolis neighborhood

In the meantime, members of Damond’s family, mostly publicized through Australian news outlets, have been speaking out:

There’s a number of things that had to line up for this to happen in the way that it did,’ Mr. Damond told ABC’s Australian Story, to air tonight [11-20-17].

3/4: the area where Damond was killed, a half block from her home

Don Damond was Justine’s fiancé. It was a half block from his Minneapolis home that she was killed.

Don and Justine Damond

I was away. I was out of town on a business trip, on a Saturday.’

‘Ms. Damond Ruszczyk, 40, had spent the morning excitedly trying on wedding dresses ahead of the couple’s wedding in Hawaii in August.

That tears at the heart.

When she called Mr. Damond to tell him she believed the noises related to a sexual assault, he told her to hang up and phone police.

It’s an instruction that’s haunted him since, as it set into play the third and final variable — the 911 calls which alerted Officer Noor and Officer Matthew Harrity’s patrol car to the disturbance.

Immediately afterwards, Ms. Damond Ruszczyk approached the driver’s side window in her pyjamas and Office Noor shot her in the stomach.

She was pronounced dead at the scene.

It’s painful to imagine the guilt Damond feels:

That night I told Justine to call 911, I had this conception that when she said, ‘the police are here,’ I felt like all is well, like the knights in shining armour have arrived,’ he said.

‘I’ll never feel that way again.

Nor will much of Minneapolis.

ABC Australia also reports:

Her family is still waiting to hear whether criminal charges will be laid over the 40-year-old’s death and is hoping for an announcement by the end of the year.

‘The waiting is awful,’ Justine’s brother, Jason said.

‘I wake up every morning and think about Juzzy and how it happened and I don’t understand why. We really need some answers soon.’

Her father John Ruszczyk struggles with how the innocent act of dialing 911 for help could lead to such a terrible outcome.

‘She did what any Aussie woman would do — go to the police because you know it’s safe and they’re going to get to the bottom of it. In this case, it was the wrong decision,’ he said.

Final Thoughts:

John Ruszczyk has hit upon the crucial issue. In most of America, citizens can be reasonably assured when they call the police to investigate a potential emergency, the police will not kill them for their trouble. God help us if this is no longer true. One might put this off as an Australian not understanding American culture and policing, but Ruszczyk is an American who moved to Australia.  This case will not only affect Minneapolis, but will reverberate throughout the nation.

Mohamed Noor

As I’ve previously written, the Damond case is not difficult. The shooter is known. The victim is unquestionably identified. The BCA, and Freeman, know exactly what Noor did, when, where, and how. There are no additional witnesses to be found and interviewed, no complex, time-consuming scientific analysis to be performed and no complex, impenetrable laws to be pondered, no legal authorities to be consulted, no deep, complex research to be done, no expert witnesses to be consulted, and no previously undiscovered suspect or evidence to be painstakingly unearthed ala CSI or crime fiction.

The only investigative issue remaining is why? Why did Mohamed Noor shoot and kill Justine Damond? Why did he shoot, from inside his police vehicle, across the body–certainly actually in the face–of his police partner, Matthew Harrity, while both sat in the front seats of their vehicle? The only possibilities are uniformly damning.

The current Noor defense seems to be that because the call took place in a dark alley, and might have involved a rape, Noor and Harrity feared an ambush. Noor reportedly had his handgun out of its holster, and in his lap, in whatever configuration. Hearing a loud noise, perhaps Damond rapping the truck or roof of the police vehicle to get their attention, perhaps a dog knocking over a garbage can, Noor saw movement at Harrity’s window, and fired a single shot.

We know from the dispatch transcript that rape was never mentioned. To the officers, the call was a routine noise complaint of the kind officers handle daily. There was no reason, none at all, to suspect an ambush, and the officers used abysmal tactics in responding to the call, particularly if they actually feared an ambush, as I noted in Update #3: Deadly Force, Deadly Mistake. 

We don’t know with certainly Harrity’s window was open. It’s possible Noor fired through the glass. If so, that’s an even more damning circumstance. We also don’t know with certainly he fired only one round. There has been no reporting on that–a vital issue in any police shooting–other than the suggestion Damond was struck only once in the stomach. The search warrant return is written nebulously, leaving open the possibility more than one round was fired. No police report documenting the police seizure of Noor’s gun and magazine, or a count of rounds expended and unexpended, an absolute necessity in any police shooting, has been released. And as I’ve previously noted, there are enormous irregularities in the search warrants. There appears, particularly, to be no probable cause for the search of Damond’s home, which appears to have been nothing more than an illegal fishing expedition mounted in an attempt to discredit her. Nothing whatever was found.

A variation of the primary Noor defense is Noor saw a dark figure running toward the officers, and seeing the figure was panicky, immediately shot them. How Noor could have determined that figure was panicky when the alley was supposedly dark, or how he could have determined they represented a deadly threat requiring their immediate execution, remains unexplained. In reality, the alley, with multiple streetlights, and motion activated garage lights, had significant ambient light. In addition, Damond apparently approached the vehicle from behind and to the left, after it passed far beyond the area of Damond’s home. How Noor could have seen her approaching from the opposite side of the car and behind likewise remains unexplained.

This remains: if Noor’s shooting of Damond is ruled an unfortunate, understandable accident, caused by Damond’s possible attempt to redirect the hapless and tactically inept officers back to the area she heard a woman’s potentially distressed calls, the “officers easily startled” signs will be more than a satiric take on the shooting. Minneapolis officers will no longer have to be reasonably certain they are facing deadly danger before shooting anything or anyone moving around them. But it was dark! Police officers work much of the time in the dark. Can they kill without justification because it’s a bit harder to see clearly? Have they no flashlights, no spotlights on their vehicles?  Does the law regulating the use of deadly force have an exception for darkness?

What likely happened is simple: Mohamed Noor, an inexperienced man unsuited to police work, accompanied by an officer with apparently less police experience, due to his own bad tactics and ineptitude, found himself startled, scared witless, and his handgun already in his hand, his finger on the trigger, fired at an impression of movement. That he hit anything, and that he did not shoot Harrity in the head, is, at best, dumb luck. By any reasonable measure, this is not an accident. It is negligent homicide. To think otherwise is to accept the proposition Mohamed Noor is precisely the sort of person we want wearing a badge, handling potential emergencies in dark alleys. His behavior that July night was objectively professional and reasonable. Damond’s death was just an understandable accident within the reasonable exercise of police discretion.

If exonerated by Freeman, how can Noor possibly continue to work as a police officer? How can the MPD assure the public–or any other officer–Noor won’t blast the next indistinct form he sees in the dark? And if he does, the survivors that file the negligent retention lawsuit will own the City of Minneapolis.

According to Freeman’s earlier statements, he has more than another month to make a decision, though he did not actually promise to make one even then. Perhaps he has yet to consult with Frey. Perhaps the Democrat establishment has yet to determine which decision would be most politically advantageous. In any case, a decision that could, and should, easily have been made no later than September 26, two weeks after Freeman received the BCA’s finished investigation, has thus far drug on for 11 weeks, and there is no end in sight.  All, gentle readers, can be sure of this: had anyone other than a police officer shot and killed Damond, they would have been arrested on the spot and formally charged and arraigned within hours.

We all hope when we die, those that remain will think kindly of us, they’ll think our story worth telling, and tell it with love that we may be remembered. Justine Damond deserves that much; I’ll do my part.