Chief Medaria Arrandondo, Deputh Chief Katherine Waite, Justine Damond, Matthew Harrity, Mohamed Noor, officer safety, police non-cooperation, relaxing too soon, Sgt. Jarrod Kunze, Sgt. Shannon Barnette, the stoner bicyclist
As you read this update, gentle readers, please understand my frustration. Because I cannot be present in the courtroom, personally or via TV, I must rely on media accounts, and I cannot see and sense the shifts in atmosphere and understanding available to the jury. I won’t delve deeply into each witness or detail, but will provide voluminous links for those so inclined. The most striking impression of this week is that MPD officers did not cover themselves in glory. For the most part, they appeared to be incompetents, perjurers, or both.
Chief Medaria Arrandondo: Arrandondo’s testimony was not at all helpful to the defense or MPD officers.
He testified he didn’t hear anything about a “thump” startling Noor, and the very idea only cropped up days after Damond’s death. He also said .”…there were no concerns that night about Noor and his partner, officer Matthew Harrity, driving into a potential ambush in Ruszczyk’s Fulton neighborhood alley.” He said the officers should have turned on their body cameras.
Arrodondo has not heard about ‘ambush’ in connection with the case. The first time Arrodondo heard about ‘ambush’ in connection with Justine’s killing was in the courtroom.
Johnson also wrote about MPD Sgt. Jarrod Kunze:
Among the MPD officers called yesterday was one Sergeant Jarrod Kunze. He seemed to have arrived from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nestor Twilight Zone. He sported a bushy beard. His testimony was set on a 10-second time delay. He was weird. Out of the hearing of the jury, Judge Quaintance described his testimony as ‘odd.’
Kunze said he wrote a report, but it has somehow disappeared. All officers involved in any case, particularly an officer involved shooting, write reports. When they don’t–as in the Erik Scott case–or the reports are altered or disappeared, that’s a cover up red flag. Kunze was present at the scene for many hours and actually spoke with Noor.
Non-cooperation conspiracy: Officers actually met and decided to withhold information:
The meeting took place in the cafeteria of the Hennepin County Government Center prior to the refusal of about 20 police officers to talk to investigators, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Patrick Lofton said Monday.
This, as well as apparent incompetence on the part of the BCA and the MPD, caused Prosecutor Mike Freeman to empanel a grand jury to compel testimony. Judge Quaintance, however, will not allow testimony about this, at least not yet. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune provided more on this:
…Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Patrick Lofton told jurors in opening statements last week that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) — the agency tasked with investigating the shooting — repeatedly fell short, initially failing to test key evidence and interview certain witnesses.
‘They made some assumptions and they tried to fill in gaps with things that they did not understand,’ Lofton said of the investigation.
By all accounts, the prosecution has been forced to treat many MPD witnesses as hostile.
Deputy Chief Katherine Waite: Her testimony was much like that or Arrodondo, but added detail:
Like Arrondondo, she heard nothing about a slap, thump or ambush.
[Reporter Joe] Mazan reports she testified that she felt the body was left at the scene too long, and that the BCA should have impounded the squad car that Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity had been riding in instead of examining it at the scene. She was also concerned about the fact that the car was placed back into service a short time later.
Mazan also reported that two paramedics who responded to the scene testified that no one there told them who shot Damond, or how long ago the shooting had taken place.
Sgt. Shannon Barnette: If what I’m reading in media accounts is correct, Sgt. Barnette is not only in perjury trouble, but should be fired by the MPD for concealing evidence and lying. She was also a non-cooperator with the investigation. Scott Johnson of Powerline reported:
She recorded three bodycam clips at the scene, but could not explain why she didn’t record Noor when she spoke with him, and why she kept turning her bodycam off and on.
The second bodycam clip is nevertheless crucial. She talked to Harrity upon arrival. The second clip captures Harrity’s explanation of the shooting to Barnette: ‘She just came out of nowhere on the side of the thing [squad car] and we both got spooked. I had my gun out. I didn’t fire. And then Noor pulled out and fired.
In other words, Harrity and Noor were no more aware of their surroundings than Joe Average out for an evening stroll. It was Johnson’s opinion that Barnette invented the “slap” to explain why the officers were so “spooked.” I’m not sure it was Barnette–more on this later–but it does not appear to have been Harrity or Noor. Harrity only adopted it days later, by his own account, after talking with his lawyer. The BCA, hours after Damond’s death, in an application for an unwarranted search warrant, listed a slap on the patrol vehicle as probable cause for the warrant. Take the link for my analysis of that bizarre warrant and resultant search, which found nothing at all.
Barnette also testified that she “casually” spoke with Harrity “numerous” times after the incident. And she testified Harrity told her–she was on-scene supervisor in charge–nothing about any pre-spooked noise:
I think that came from officers trying to figure out how they were … startled,” she said of how she came to share the information with the BCA.
Noor could be seen on Barnette’s body camera video briefly. He raised his left arm, then the right arm. Prosecutors suggested that Noor was demonstrating how he shot Ruszczyk from the passenger seat, but Barnette vehemently denied talking to him about the shooting at all.
She said she didn’t document the conversation because it was private and that the body-camera policy at the time allowed for officers to use discretion.
Throughout the testimony, Barnette casually answered ‘no,’ ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘I don’t recall’ to questions about her lack of documentation and evidence-gathering, prompting the prosecution to ask her if she knew how important and high-profile the case was.
Police officers don’t have “private” conversations with murder suspects.
The bicyclist has given conflicting statements about the shooting, but he wasn’t a bad witness. Indeed, the Star Tribune reporters found him ‘compelling.’ He was engagingly candid…
He saw Justine approaching the police car, a cell phone in her left hand, her right hand raised, but heard no noise–no slap or thump–before the shot the killed her. He was quite close, and immediately started recording with his cellphone. His testimony did not, in any way, help the defense.
Hennepin County Prosecutor Investigator Nancy Dunlap: She constructed a precise timeline, which the BCA and MPD failed to do–always a cover up red flag. If she’s right, Harrity’s bodycam, which he turned on just after Noor’s shot, should have recorded that shot, just without sound. It has a built in 30-second silent buffer added to the beginning of every clip prior to activation, yet that apparently didn’t happen.
Officer Matthew Harrity: Visit this account from Johnson, and this from MPR for additional details. Harrity began his testimony on Thursday, 04-18-19. Johnson now believes the “thump” came from Harrity in his interview with the BCA some three days after the shooting. This is apparently the first time–other than the BCA warrant affidavit–it “officially” appears, but Harrity may have decided to use it to make himself and Noor look better. No police officer likes to admit they were so oblivious they were caught unawares by a non-threatening woman in her pajamas, particularly after they shot and killed her for no reason.
Harrity testified he didn’t speak with Barnette at all after the shooting.
During his testimony, Harrity, Noor and a juror(?!) began crying because of how affected Harrity was by Damond’s death. I rather think she and her family were a bit more affected.
Harrity testified on direct examination that he viewed every call as a threat. He flipped the hood down on his holster and took his seatbelt off as he drove down the alley behind Justine’s house. His own safety is a primary concern. ‘I want to go home every night,’ he said.
This is scary. Officers have to be aware of the possibility of danger, but no one in their right mind thinks every call to be a threat. Few, if any, are, particularly in neighborhoods like Damond’s. Be alert, have situational awareness, surely, but constant paranoia? That’s the mindset that leads to needlessly and unlawfully dead citizens.
He spent two minutes driving down the alley. He turned off the headlights and dimmed the computer screen to drive ‘dark.’ He did not turn his or the squad camera on. He had the driver’s side window at least halfway down. He asserted that he wasn’t going to “mess with the camera” when he was concerned about safety. He used his spotlight to illuminate the rear of houses near Justine’s. He stopped the squad at one point when he discerned a sound. The only sound he could make out was a dog moaning barking between 5016-5020 Washburn (Justine’s address was 5024).
The flick of a finger to turn on a bodycam would distract Harrity from “safety?” What an incompetent/liar. Officers are expected to multitask, driving, thinking, watching their surroundings, speaking on the radio and simultaneously activating various switches in various places. Activating a body camera should be second nature, muscle memory. Most people can’t multitask, and they aren’t fit to be police officers. Apparently Harrity is one. This is even better:
Harrity stopped at the end of the alley at 11:39 p.m. and turned lights back on. Seeing the bicyclist coming down the street, Harrity waited for him to go by before they moved on to another call. The lighting was sufficient for Harrity to make out that it was a male on a bicycle from half a block away.
So much for it being so dark as to somehow justify Noor’s shot. Darkness means the opposite: taking more time, greater care, to be certain of a threat.
Harrity scanned left and right. He had a ‘weird feeling’ of something coming toward him to his left. He heard a voice. He heard a thump behind him on the driver’s side on the squad car. He made out a silhouette. He reached for his gun. He took the safe hood off; he took the trigger latch off.
Amazing how one can recall details like a “weird feeling” days and months later, after one develops the need to recall them.
He removed his gun from its holster and raised it to his rib cage pointed down. He was startled. He thought it might be an ambush, but he made out no weapons; he could not make out hands. He thinks he would have exclaimed, ‘Oh, shit!’ or ‘Oh, Jesus!’
Harrity was so worried about his safety he was entirely relaxed, and other than idly watching the stoner bicyclist, paid no attention at all to his surroundings. He actually admitted this. He admitted that when he reached the end of the alley, any thought of danger was out of mind. In police training, this is known as “relaxing too soon.”
Harrity noticed a ‘flash and a pop,’ checked himself to see if he had been shot, and thought he saw Noor’s hand upraised. He saw Damond clutching her abdomen, holstered, got out of the car and eased her to the ground as she said ‘I’m dead,’ or ‘I’m dying.’
Both Harrity’s and Noor’s bodycam video are devastating in human terms. We see Harrity administering CPR to Justine on the ground as she is bleeding to death. We hear her moaning and gasping. We hear her dying breaths. Harrity urges her to keep breathing and assures her she’s going to be okay throughout. Those of Justine’s family who were in court sobbed silently. There was a lot of crying in court yesterday.
Harrity admitted telling Barnette they were “spooked,” and that he said nothing about a thump. MPR adds additional details:
Noor testified that he unsnapped his holster as he entered the alley, and that he only rolled his window down about half way. Apparently Noor’s window was up.
He added that he didn’t want to ‘mess with’ turning on his body camera if someone was going to ‘jump out’ at him, but said he also didn’t think the possibility of a threat was high enough to require him to turn it on. He turned his camera on in the aftermath.
So brave, brave, crying Officer Harrity was very concerned about his safety, but not really, so there was no need to activate his bodycam.
Asked at one point by prosecutor Amy Sweasy why he didn’t shoot if he was startled, Harrity said because he didn’t get a chance to ‘analyze the threat’ and couldn’t shoot at a shadowy figure before seeing the actual target and the person’s hands.
Harrity said he thought of her as a threat until the shot was fired, then he saw her hands and saw she wasn’t a threat.
Harrity is finally testifying like a professional. You don’t shoot unless you’re sure.Being sure does not encompass shooting at sound, motion, or vague impressions of something or other. CBS clarified:
Under questioning from Sweasy, Harrity said that he would need to identify a threat and a target before firing his weapon. Harrity conceded that an officer would not point a gun unless he intended to use it, and said deadly force can be used only under reasonable circumstances.
‘Use of deadly force, from your viewpoint at this point, would have been premature,’ [Prosecutor Amy] Sweasy said of the situation. ‘Yes, with what I had,’ Harrity replied.
What more could Noor have had?
As regular readers know, my theory of the case is simple: Harrity and Noor were dispatched to a routine noise complaint in one of the safest neighborhoods in the city. They were not told anything about a potential rape, so no other officers sped to the scene for backup. Cops love to catch felons in the act.
They had no reason to expect danger, and their tactics reveal they expected no danger. Even if Harrity did unsnap–I’m not taking his testimony at face value–that would not be at all unusual. Drawing while seated in a patrol vehicle is difficult, and officers often unsnap (release safety/security devices to make drawing marginally easier and faster) for a variety of reasons.
Smart officers would have parked out of sight and sound, got out, paused out of sight at the end of the alley to let their eyes adjust and to listen, and only then, splitting apart, slowly and carefully walked the alley, looking and listening. If they really expected danger, they absolutely would have done this, and would have called for backup. Doing as Harrity testified they did, simply rolling down the alley, lights out, window half down, tire and engine noise telling any potential ambusher where they were and making it hard for them to hear anything, would be idiotic. Trapped in a police vehicle in a real ambush, officers are sitting ducks, which is why they are sometimes ambushed there.
Because they never expected any real danger,by the time they reached the end of the alley, they had already completely relaxed the minimal state of alertness they had. We now know Harrity was preparing to acknowledge their next call and watching the stoner bicyclist, while Noor was typing on the computer.
And then Justine Damond, trying to be a good citizen, made her final mistake. She trusted them, and she died. They were so blissfully unaware of their surroundings–despite being afraid of an imminent ambush–her appearance “spooked” them, and Noor, perhaps seeing nothing at all but Harrity startling and exclaiming “oh shit” or something like it, fired out the window in Harrity’s face. Even if he saw movement, or a “silhouette,” or a “frame,” or just thought he saw something, there was no cause to shoot. None.
A BCA agent, putting together a telephonic warrant application, made up the thump, or perhaps heard other officers at the scene–maybe Barnette–speculating about a thump or slap, and that sounded good for probable cause for a warrant they had no lawful, rational reason to request. Take the link here to my article about it. They found nothing, which is unsurprising as Damond’s home was a half block away, and had nothing to do with her death. In any case, the thump narrative was established and handy for trying to justify that which cannot be justified.
Much will now depend on the Prosecution’s use of force experts. They have apparently engaged two. If they are competent, they can do nothing other than reiterate Harrity’s admission but in more direct, rational terms: No shooting, even if it means injury to oneself, unless one is sure they are facing an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death. Even caught unaware, scared out of his wits, Harrity remembered enough of his training to keep from shooting Damond. Noor did not. The defense use of force expert has the unenviable task of presenting Noor’s murder as reasonable, what any police officer would and should do under the same circumstances.
I have thus far seen nothing that alters the reality that Mohamed Noor negligently killed Justine Damond. The MPD negligently hired and retained him. The police Union and the uncooperative MPD officers are not public servants. They serve and protect only themselves, and in this case, a murderer. In a competent law enforcement agency, officers, and particularly supervisors, behaving as these have, would be fired. All any officer has is his reputation for integrity. Once it is thrown away, as Barnette appears to have done, they are useless. No one will believe anything they say, nor should they. They have allowed this case to severely damage the relationship between the prosecutor’s office and the MPD, which makes life much more unsafe for every Minneapolis citizen.
It is becoming more and more difficult to see how the Defense can avoid putting Noor on the stand. I worry about the crying juror. Did they cry because of the horror of Damond’s unnecessary death, or because poor Officer Harrity and former Officer Noor cried, the poor sensitive darlings? It takes only a single juror for a hung jury.
Harrity will apparently take the stand again Monday, the 22nd.