Minneapolis, MN - New details have been released on the shooting of Justine Damond which give a possible cause of the shooting.
The BCA released information on Tuesday from an interview with Officer Matthew Harrity, who was driving the patrol car when his partner, Officer Mohamed Noor, shot over Officer Harrity and through the driver's door, fatally hitting Justine Damond.
In the interview, Officer Harrity said heard a loud noise prior to Officer Noor firing his weapon. The BCA said, "Harrity indicated that he was startled by a loud sound near the squad," according to Star Tribune.
Immediately after the loud noise is when Justine Damond approached the squad car in her pajamas, and Officer Noor fired his weapon.
During the radio audio of the incident, a dispatcher references "two shots heard to the east."
An officer responded, "We heard those sounds from the station, those are probably aerial fireworks." It's believed that those fireworks may be the loud noise that the officers hears.
It is not clear at this time if the shooting was an accidental discharge from being startled, or Officer Noor was responding to what he perceived to be gunshots while a person approached them, or some other reasoning. Officer Noor has still not been interviewed.
If the shooting is determined to have been accidental, criminal charges would be appropriate and are certain to be filed. If the shooting was an intentional act, then all of the circumstances would need to be judged to determine if it was objectively reasonable.
The incident initially occurred on Saturday night at around 11:30 PM when officers responded to a 911 call just north of the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue S. for a report of what sounded like a possible fight. Family members say that Justine Damond is the person who called 911.
According to unnamed “sources,” Star Tribune reports that both officers were in their vehicle as they pulled to the end of an alley on W. 51st Street between Washburn and Xerxes Avenues.
The officers were wearing body cameras, but did not turn them on until after the shooting. Early indications are that the officers were in full compliance with the department camera policy.
The officers unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate Damond, who died on scene.
There has been a huge push by both the media and politicians to implicate the officers for the way that they operated their cameras, there is actually no evidence to support this claim. In fact, the available information suggests that the cameras were operated according to policy.
Based on our law enforcement training and experience with dash cameras and body cameras, we can make an educated guess about why the cameras weren’t on.
Most dash cameras and body cameras either do not record all of the time, or they record constantly, but only keep 30 seconds or so of video. That way when the camera is activated, it may show a brief time before activation; this is reportedly how Minneapolis' cameras are set to operate.
Dash cameras are generally activated by being manually turned on by the officer, or by the officer activating their vehicle’s emergency lights. Body cameras are generally activated by the officer manually turning them on.
There are some systems which may activate body cameras when officers take another action, such as activating emergency lights or drawing a weapon; these auto-activation systems are more expensive and uncommon.
Considering the circumstances of the 911 call, nothing should have triggered the cameras to turn on.
The officers in this incident were essentially responding to an area check. The 911 caller thought they heard a fight in the area, so the officers responded by driving through to see if they could find anybody fighting.
This is the sort of low-key incident that officers respond to all of the time. Most of the time, the people involved are gone by the time officers arrive.
There is absolutely no reason that the officers would have any reason to activate their emergency equipment or body cameras in order to conduct an area check unless they actually rolled up on an assault, at which time they should activate their cameras.
The officers were reportedly still in their patrol car at the time of the shooting, meaning nothing prompted them to exit their car and activate their body cameras.
Considering how the cameras work, and considering the circumstances, I would have been surprised if body camera footage actually did exist in this incident.
No matter what the circumstances of the shooting turn out to be, there’s no reason at this time to believe that there’s even so much as a policy violation with the cameras being off.