In case you have been living under a rock for the last several days, there was an officer involved shooting in Minneapolis, MN over the weekend. Late Saturday night, around 11:30pm, officers responded to a 911 call about a disturbance in an alley. At some point in time, after officers arrived, the 911 caller, Justine Damond, approached the patrol car on the diver side and was shot by the officer who was seated in the passenger seat.
The above information is the super simplified version of what happened. If you read many of the news reports about this incident, you might find all sorts of other information either added, or conspicuously lacking. Sadly, as in the cases of most officer involved shootings, the information that is obviously lacking is causing many folks to try and fill that void, mostly with rumor and innuendo. I myself am guilty of that on occasion, and have done so to a minor extent in this one.
Luckily, the fact that I am a working cop, and a street cop at that (as opposed to an administrator) lends me some credibility with other cops, at least those who know my reputation. In this case, that lead to a cop familiar with this incident reaching out to try and fill some of the voids as best they could, without releasing information that could hinder any sort of investigation. To be perfectly honest, what this cop told me is exactly what the police department should be releasing, but for whatever bizarre reason, they are being very tight lipped with all the information surrounding this incident.
Please take everything that follows with a grain of salt, as some of this information is from word of mouth and not direct knowledge, and other parts are intentionally vague to avoid causing problems for the person I spoke to.
First of all, most news reports are saying the 911 call was about a possible sexual assault, but from what I was told, it was dispatched more as a disturbance in the alley, with no specific location indicated in the call.
Second, and very importantly as most of the mainstream media is throwing a huge fit over the fact that their body cameras were not on at the time of the shooting, the officers had already checked the area and were not able to locate the source of the disturbance, so they drove to a dark area to clear the call, and while doing so, turned off their cameras. That bit is also quite important as the media is throwing a fit over it. Despite what the media is saying, turning the cameras off as they clear the call is totally within the department policy (or so I was told).
Despite what is being reported by many outlets, the officer only fired one shot. While I think we will all agree, one shot was one too many, it is significantly different from what I read at various outlets that suggested multiple shots were fired. While this may seem trivial to some people, one shot can be explained as a negligent discharge, where multiple shots cannot. This is in fact quite important. A negligent discharge does not make the shooting excusable, but it does make more sense than the officer just randomly shooting a caller for no apparent reason, which many of the news reports about this incident make it sound like.
Many news outlets are saying that the victim, Justine Damond, was standing at the patrol car driver’s door speaking to the officer driving when the passenger officer “drew his weapon and shot her through the door,” I was told this was not in fact the case. There are several problems with that statement. First, I was told she was not actually standing there talking to them, but rather that she was jogging/running toward their car. Second, Officer Noor did not in fact draw his gun from the holster because he already had it out. Apparently, as they checked the alley, they had their handguns unholstered and Noor had not yet reholstered his gun. Third, Noor did not “shoot through the door,” at least not in the way that that statement makes most people picture the incident. According to the person I spoke to, there were no holes in the door, so it is likely the shot went through the window, whether or not the window was down at the time is unknown.
In regards to Officer Noor himself, many outlets have (correctly) pointed out that he is a Somali immigrant. However, many of those outlets seem to be insinuating that this incident may have been racially/religiously motivated. The person I spoke to has had numerous first-hand dealings with Officer Noor and said there was never any indication that this could be a racial or religiously motivated incident.
Several people have posted comments in various locations, my Facebook page being one of them, indicating that Officer Noor was a problematic patrol trainee. Some people said that his training had been extended, some saying extended more than once, because he was far below acceptable levels, and that he was being treated special because of political correctness reasons (he fit several hiring check boxes). The person I spoke to said, to the best of their knowledge, none of that was true. They said they even asked around to other people who are in the know regarding Officer Noor, and those other folks had also heard the same rumors, but they too said the rumors were inaccurate. The consensus was that Noor was neither a problem trainee, nor was he ultra-stellar. He was just an ordinary, mostly average trainee.
Noor was described to me as an “okay new cop, still pretty green.” Some coworkers were put off by what was described as a slightly cocky attitude, but that attitude is not specific to Noor. In fact, most young cops, especially those from his generation, seem to share that trait. As for his greenness, it is also not specific to him. Most senior cops, myself included, will tell you that the first two years you are in patrol on your own, you are a mess. It takes most of us at least two years before we really know what we are doing, and Noor was not there yet.
I asked some questions I had specific to how the department there functions. First, I wanted to know if all of the patrol cars were two-officer units or if the fact that two cops were in the car was unusual. I was told that nearly all, if not all, of the patrol units fielded were two-officer cars. The second question I had, which I asked based on personal observation at my own department, was if they were allowing two new cops to double up, or if they were putting new cops with seasoned officers. I was told that there was no directive on that, and that most new cops tended to double up with other new cops. In this particular incident, both Noor and his partner were fairly new to the job.
Now, as for specifics about the shooting and the ongoing investigation, I wish I had more information, but I do not. We are just going to have to wait and see what comes from the investigation.
No matter what happens with the investigation, a truly innocent woman died needlessly. That in and of itself is horrific. Nothing that happens from this point on will bring her back, and nothing the city, the department, or Officer Noor does will make her loss any less tragic. For her family and her friends, I offer my sincerest condolences.