A little more than a week ago, Justine Damond was shot and killed by officers responding to a call about a potential sexual assault. Unfortunately, it is all too common to pick up a newspaper or see internet headlines and seeing a police-involved shooting. But this one, in many ways, illustrates a problem — several problems actually — with the current state of not only police training but the public’s confidence (or lack thereof) in the police.
Justine Damond, an Australian currently residing in Minneapolis, did what any law-abiding person should do when they think a crime is going down. She called the police. She not only called once but she called at least twice because it was taking so long for a unit to respond and she was worried. You see, she heard something near her backyard that made her fear a woman was being assaulted.
On her last call, she was informed the police were almost there. That’s where things go from real to surreal.
The police unit nears and Damond goes outside. As she neared the squad car, a shot rang out and she went down.
Damond, who was (iirc) in her pajamas and who was unarmed wasn’t shot and killed by the suspect. Nor was she shot and killed by a well-intentioned neighbor. No, she was shot and killed by one of the two officers responding to her call for help.
What makes this case even more of a head-scratcher is that she was approaching the squad car from the driver’s side. However, instead of the driver pulling his service revolver and firing, the shot came from the passenger in the car. This officer unholstered his weapon, aimed across his partner and opened fire. My first thought in hearing this was that his partner would be lucky to get out of that with little to no permanent damage to his hearing. The second was to wonder what the officer saw that his partner, the man closest to the supposed threat Damond presented, did not.
Where this entire incident is troubling is two-fold. The first is that the officers’ body cameras were not rolling. Now, this might be departmental policy. I’ve read that Minneapolis police aren’t required to engage their cameras until they get out of their squad cars. If so, it is a foolish policy. Those cameras, as well as their dash cams, need to be rolling as they near a scene. Any cop with more than a month’s experience on the job will tell you things can and do happen before you arrive at the address where a call originates from. It can be as simple as seeing the suspect walking down the street to getting a better picture for later (as in for court) about what the cop is walking into and what helped form their judgment and caused them to act a certain way.
In this case, we are missing all this. The driver of the squad car said they heard a loud noise and that startled them. Unfortunately, there is nothing to back him up on that. And, to the best of my knowledge, that includes his partner, the shooter. As of last night, when I last searched out information on the case, the shooter had yet to make a statement. Oh, he apparently talked to a friend who said he was startled when Damond came running toward them. But that has been all I’ve seen where the shooter is concerned.
And, frankly, if he was startled by a woman running toward him in her pajamas, there were still steps he should have taken before shooting her. He should have ordered her to stop and hold her hands where he could see them. He should have told his partner to move the car. Those are just two things. But, to the best of my knowledge he did none of them.
Now, according to the friend, he is upset because he is being thrown under the bus by other cops. Perhaps, then, it is time for him to give a statement and tell everyone his side of the story. Otherwise, all we have is conjecture.
Oh, and a supposed witness who may or may not have seen the shooting. The witness most definitely saw what happened afterwards and can testify about the demeanor of both officers involved.
This is a tragedy that never should have happened. I am a supporter of cops and all first responders. However, I look at situations like this and wonder if it was poor training, poor trigger discipline or what that brought about this situation. Sure, Damond should have waited for the cops to tell her to approach but she did what I’m sure any number of us would have done, especially after having to wait for the unit to arrive. She ran forward to, presumably, tell them why she called.
And she paid for it with her life.
It is situations like this that cause the public to lose confidence in our police. I applaud the Minneapolis mayor for asking the police chief to resign. Between this incident and others in the city, it was one step they mayor could take to show the public she was not going to sit still and wait for a repeat. However, it doesn’t bring back Damond. Nor does it answer the questions we all have about why the officer fired.
Worse, there have been stories alluding to the fact the officer has been involved in other incidents that bring his judgment or actions as a cop into question. I’m sure we will hear more about that as the case progresses. My fear is that we will learn this is a cop who should not have been on the street but was allowed to remain there for who knows what reason. If so, I hope to hell Damond’s family and fiance sue the shit out of the city and the cop.
There are a lot of good, reliable and caring cops out there. Just like we don’t see good news reported in the media, we don’t hear about them. That gives us a jaundiced view of our police forces and makes the job harder for those who are good cops. My one hope is if, as I suspect, this turns out to be a bad shooting, the cop feels the full force of the law. That’s not because of his sex or his race or his beliefs or anything except he is a cop and cops should be held to a higher standard than the average citizen in situations like this.
God’s rest, Ms. Damond, and I hope your family eventually finds peace. I doubt there can ever be any understanding in this situation.