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Excessive Force: Ice Shackled 92 Somalis for 40 Hrs



For a brief moment in December 2017, the international spotlight shined on the case of 92 deportees who were on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement-chartered flight to Somalia. Most such flights unload their human cargo once they land, but this flight, for logistical reasons, returned home — and brought witnesses back with it.

The Somalis told of abuse on the flight, saying they were shackled with chains on their wrists, waists, and legs for more than 40 hours; forced to urinate in bottles or on themselves; and that ICE officers beat and threatened some passengers. (ICE has denied that it mistreated detainees on the flight.)

But even after the spotlight dimmed, the abuse continued. The Somalis are still being held at the Krome Detention Center and the Glades County Detention Center in Florida, as their lawyers try to fight their deportations. At Glades, where half the group is being held, they have complained of a litany of abuses, including violent assaults by guards, denial of medical care, lack of access to their lawyers, and racism.

“The guards and the administration up there at Glades, they think they’re immune. To me, it’s so brazen to be doing this. They know there’s a federal case. They know we’re up there all the time. They know there are investigators up there,” said Lisa Lehner, an attorney at Americans for Immigrant Justice, one of the groups representing the Somalis. “They called them ‘niggers.’ They called them ‘boy.’ They’ve said things like, ‘We’re sending you boys back to the jungle.’” An ICE spokesperson in Miami declined to answer questions about the complaints coming from Glades, citing pending litigation.

The treatment of the 92 Somalis, both on board the ICE-chartered plane and at the Glades detention center, is not a case of a few operators gone rogue and exposes the very limited avenues for accountability available to those who are abused in ICE custody, as well as the particular vulnerability of those who experience aggression on their way out of the United States.

Rebecca Merton, a program coordinator at Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, or CIVIC, said that there is a logic to the mayhem: The abusive conditions eventually wear down the will of detainees to stay and fight their deportation orders in court. “One way that ICE, and particularly [Enforcement and Removal Operations, an ICE sub-office], achieves its goal of mass deportation is by subjecting people to indefinite detention in terrible conditions without any source of hope, or sometimes, outside contact,” said Merton.

Two weeks after the failed deportation flight, the 92 Somalis sued ICE for “inhumane conditions and egregious abuse” on the flight and asked the court to halt their deportations.

“As the plane sat on the runway, the 92 detainees remained bound, their handcuffs secured to their waists, and their feet shackled together,” the complaint — filed by a team of lawyers from the Immigration Clinic at the University of Miami Law School, Americans for Immigrant Justice, the James H. Binger Center for New Americans at the University of Minnesota Law School, and Legal Aid Service of Broward County — reads.

“When the plane’s toilets overfilled with human waste, some of the detainees were left to urinate into bottles or on themselves. ICE agents wrapped some who protested, or just stood up to ask a question, in full-body restraints. ICE agents kicked, struck, or dragged detainees down the aisle of the plane, and subjected some to verbal abuse and threats.”

ICE Air Operations is a division of the agency responsible for deportation flights. “ICE Air Operations personnel follow best practices when it comes to the security, safety and welfare of the aliens returned to their countries of origin,” its website reads. “There are a variety of [Enforcement and Removal Operations] personnel on board who ensure the health and safety of the aliens and officers during removal flights.”

But that’s not what happened on December 7, when the plane stopped in Senegal to refuel, then sat on a runway there for 23 hours before being re-routed to Miami. ICE explained the delay in a statement it issued in December. “The relief crew was unable to get sufficient crew rest due to issues with their hotel in Dakar,” so the aircraft remained parked so that the crew could rest. “The allegations of ICE mistreatment onboard the Somali flight are categorically false. No one was injured during the flight, and there were no incidents or altercations that would have caused any injuries on the flight.”

Lehner said some of her clients reported that officers on board the airplane apologized to the immigrants when they realized the flight would be returning to the United States. It was not clear whether those who apologized were ICE officers or private contractors, she said.

A number of major media outlets, including the New York Times, reported on the failed deportation flight; the news was later picked up by Somali media. The Somalis argued in the lawsuit that, if they were to be returned to Somalia, they would be “killed or harmed due to changed circumstances in Somalia created by the media coverage and notoriety of the aborted and abusive December 7 flight.” (A team of pro bono lawyers is helping the Somalis try to reopen their past immigration cases in pursuit of immigration relief. An immigration court has agreed to reopen at least one of their cases so far.)

Though ICE had been planning to take another shot at deporting the 92 people — most of them men, many of them longtime residents of the United States who fled horrors in Somalia and have U.S. citizen family members — in December, a judge at the Miami federal court halted their deportations at least until January 2. That order has since been extended, as the court continues to weigh preliminary issues related to the lawsuit.

The lawyers also filed an administrative complaint with the DHS Inspector General and Civil Rights and Civil Liberties offices — one of few options available to victims of excessive force seeking accountability. In addition to laying out what happened on the deportation flight, the complaint includes recommendations for amendments to ICE’s shackling policy. Fatma Marouf, a professor at the Texas A&M University Law School, wrote in the complaint that medical studies indicate that “the extreme form of shackling used on the 92 deportees could cause significant psychological harm.”

In the weeks that followed, the Somalis being held at Glades have complained of physical abuse by guards at the county jail that doubles as an immigration detention center. The conditions at the jail — pepper spray as a form of punishment and lack of access to medical care, to name a few — are the subject of a separate administrative complaint, court filings, and a letter to a congressional representative and state senator.

Khadar Ibrahim, who fled Somalia nearly three decades ago after his father was murdered and his aunt was raped in a brutal civil war, said he was roughed up both on the flight and at Glades. At one point on the deportation flight, Ibrahim stood up to use the bathroom, and an ICE officer picked him up from his waist and threw him to the ground headfirst, according to court documents. He experienced neck pain for weeks after.

Then, at Glades, he watched a fight unfold between two detainees over access to a phone on Christmas Day. He watched from his dormitory as guards beat up another detainee who tried to break up the fight, and when a guard used pepper spray against one of the men involved in the fight, other detainees in the dorm inhaled some of it too, according to an administrative complaint. The next day, after two other eyewitnesses asked to speak to a captain about what had happened, an officer identified as “Sergeant Mims” in the complaint escorted Ibrahim and two other men to segregation cells. (ICE declined to comment on the complaint.)

“On the way to segregation and while handcuffed, Sergeant Mims tackled me from behind,” Ibrahim wrote in a sworn statement. “I fell forward and hit my head on the floor and it made my neck hurt very badly. We went to medical, and I told the nurse my neck hurt. Sergeant Mims told her it was nothing and she did not examine me. She did not ask me any questions, check my blood pressure, or take my temperature. She only spoke to Sergeant Mims.”

“Glades staff have used pepper spray, segregation, shackling and physical abuse on our clients in a discriminatory display of excessive force,” the administrative complaint — filed with two Department of Homeland Security offices — reads. “They have used racial slurs to berate them, including the words ‘nigger’ and ‘boy.’ They have interfered with our clients’ right to make a grievance by threatening them and placing them in segregation when they express their intention to file a grievance.”

ICE has long come under fire for conditions at its detention facilities across the country. Krome, the Miami detention center where half of the Somali group is being held, was haunted by reports of beatings and rapes in the 1980s and 1990s, but complaints of abuse largely subsided after the facility was upgraded in the mid-aughts. “Some complaints still occasionally surface — but Krome officials say they are investigated quickly,” the Miami Herald reported in 2015. “It’s very, very different from its former self,” Cheryl Little, executive director of Americans for Immigrant Justice, told the Miami New Times three years ago.

Glades also has its fair share of problems. Lawyers from the Immigration Clinic of the University of Miami Law School, after touring the center in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2016, sent letters to the leadership of Glades and Krome, raising concerns about detention conditions. For example, two years ago, the clinic identified a number of issues, including “abusive and inappropriate officer interactions with detainees; medical attention; [and] attorney access to detainees and lack of attorney-client confidentiality and privacy.”

Other immigration detention centers — many of them operated by private prison corporations — are also plagued by abuses. In December, a Department of Homeland Security watchdog reported that, at four of five detention facilities it inspected, it found conditions “that undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.” The report, issued by the DHS Office of the Inspector General, said that medical care may have been delayed and that there was a lack of cleanliness at several facilities. “Documentation of daily medical visits and meal records for detainees being held in segregation was also missing or incomplete,” the inspector general found. “Some of these issues may simply be a matter of inadequate documentation, but they could also indicate more serious problems with potential misuse of segregation.”

Immigrant detainees have also reported physical abuse at a number of detention centers. A 2016 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and the Adelante Alabama Worker Center found inadequate medical care and widespread abuses at six immigration detention centers in the South. “Detained immigrants described being subjected to physical abuse, retaliation and excessive use of segregation and lockdown by detention center staff and ICE officers,” according to the report. “There is also a general lack of protection from violence within the facilities.”

“It’s not a couple of facilities that aren’t meeting ICE standards, or a couple of guards who are racist and abusive,” said Merton. “The entire system is treating people the way the Trump administration wants them to.”

While CIVIC, which believes in abolishing the immigration detention system, condemned abuses in the system long before Donald Trump was elected on a vehemently anti-immigrant agenda, Merton said the last administration was much more responsive to complaints. “If there was enough public pressure, the Obama administration might have done something about individual cases or made policy changes at a particular facility,” Merton explained. “Under the Trump administration, it’s like they really don’t care that their brutality is being put on full display. It seems at times they want the reports to come out to instill fear in immigrant communities.”

Clara Long, who researches immigration policy at Human Rights Watch, told The Intercept that she has received complaints about ICE officers using excessive force when getting people to sign deportation orders, “like pulling people’s arm, pushing them to sign, that kind of coercion.” (The signing of deportation documents usually happens at ICE field offices, not detention centers.)

Another context in which immigrants report excessive force, Long said, is when they’re being loaded onto deportation flights, especially for people who are being forcibly deported. When ICE tried to deport the 92 Somalis in December, it was supposed to be a one-way flight. But after the immigrants unexpectedly were brought back to the United States, they were able to file an administrative complaint. Most deportees don’t have the chance to do even that.

“One problem is making sure that people have the opportunity to make a complaint, so when you’re talking about a system that’s churning out people rapidly,” Long said, “if someone is not coming back and is experiencing some sort of an excessive use of force while being while on a deportation flight, there’s a huge barrier to be able to make a complaint.”

In 2009, the Obama administration announced a long-term plan to overhaul the immigration detention system. Under the reforms, ICE moved away from its decentralized network of jails to a system of federal oversight. One significant change was the creation of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning, which was meant to “plan and design a civil detention system tailored to ICE’s needs.”

“In 2009, the administration identified a series of reforms that it wanted to be implemented immediately, and then over time we identified additional areas where improvement was necessary,” said Kevin Landy, a former ICE assistant director who headed the office, which had a staff of five, from 2010 to 2017.

Under the Trump administration, the office has ceased to function as an independent unit within ICE. Instead, its staff and work have been “absorbed into existing detention management components and will continue as a part of ICE’s daily operations,” ICE spokesperson Sarah Rodriguez said. What once was a standalone office that reported to the ICE director is now effectively a part of Enforcement and Removal Operations, the wing of ICE that carries out deportations and is responsible for detaining and transporting immigrants in ICE custody. Many of the office’s key policy changes, such as the policy directing the use of segregation, remain in effect, Rodriguez noted.

One of the biggest steps the office took under the Obama administration was the promulgation of what are known as the 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards, or PBNDS, a revision of the 2008 PBNDS and the 2000 National Detention Standards, or NDS. Generally speaking, the PBNDS are in force at “dedicated” facilities — centers that house only ICE detainees, while the NDS continue to apply at shared-use county jails, like Glades.

A 2016 report from the National Immigration Justice Center found that the “patchwork application of three different sets of detention standards results in confusion about which standards are applicable during inspections, and uneven protections for detained immigrants.”

The detention standards contain guidance on everything from food in detention centers to visitation to religious practices to use of force by detention facility staff. They include standards both for detainee discipline and grievances, and give detainees the option of filing complaints internally or with an ICE field office. Detainees can also file civil lawsuits or complain directly to the DHS Inspector General and Civil Rights and Civil Liberties offices, and, in theory, to law enforcement. The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility is another body that oversees detention centers and ensures that detention standards are abided by.

How well that is ensured is an open question. “It’s problematic when an agency is tasked with investigating the abuses that occur under its own supervision,” said Merton, noting that an April 2017 complaint CIVIC filed with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Liberties has gone unacknowledged. “ICE audits tend to be perfunctory at best. It’s just checking off a list without listening to what people in these facilities are saying.”

On the evening of February 9, some of the toilets in the isolation cells at Glades were clogged and spewing sewage on the floor, making them impossible to use. The Somali men in segregation complained, and one of them, Agane Warsame, asked for a mop to clean his cell. In response, officers “sprayed pepper spray through the slots of their cells, making them unable to breathe,” according to court records. “The officers called the men ‘niggers’ and told them to ‘go back to the jungle.’ Glades officers inflicted beatings on Agane Warsame” and possibly one other man, according to court records. ICE refuted this account in court records, and said the “claims of excessive force are meritless.”

The filth caused by the overflowing toilets, unbearable for anyone, poses a special problem for the Somali men, most of whom are Muslim, noted Lehner, the attorney from Americans for Immigrant Justice. “This also raises the issue of the facility’s lack of respect for the Somalis’ religious faith. They are unable to pray when their cells are filthy,” she said, also noting that the facility has refused to provide the inmates with religious-compliant meals. (One Jewish Somali man told his lawyers that he had repeatedly asked for kosher meals and was subsequently placed in isolation, Lehner said.)

Asked to comment on the detainees’ claims, Nestor Yglesias, an ICE spokesperson in Miami, sent a link to the detention standards and wrote, “This link addresses how ICE operates every center.” In court filings, ICE said Warsame was being disruptive by yelling and kicking on the door of his cell while asking for a mop, spurring other detainees to exhibit “disorderly behavior.” Warsame was taken out of his cell “to limit his disruptive participation in the ongoing disturbance within the segregation unit, and he was pepper sprayed outside of his cell, after he became “actively aggressive” and cursed and spit at a guard, according to ICE.

Warsame’s lawyers, after hearing about the altercation, rushed to Glades to investigate. They found him “so injured he cannot walk” and in a wheelchair, with a possibly broken hip, according to court records. An incident report from the detention center included details about the malfunctioning toilets and the pepper spray, but omitted mention of “the documented physical abuse of Mr. Warsame officers,” his attorneys wrote in an emergency motion to the court.

Following the incident, Warsame’s lawyers asked the court to order a transfer of the Somali detainees out of Glades. “We were really scared for people’s lives,” Lehner, who filed the motion, said. That effort was unsuccessful.

Under the 2000 National Detention Standards, ICE officer are “under no circumstances” allowed to use force to punish a detainee and can only use the amount of force necessary “to gain control of the detainee.” Under those standards, medical personnel must examine a detainee after any use of force and immediately treat injuries. Officers can use nonlethal weapons, such as pepper spray, if a detainee is armed or barricaded, cannot be approached without endangering himself or others, or if a delay in using force to control the situation would seriously endanger the detainee or others.

“The use of pepper spray also has to be discussed in advance with medical staff, unless that’s not possible,” said Landy. “In my opinion, pepper spray should only be used against a detainee already confined in a segregated cell only in very rare circumstances.”

At least eight detainees had previously said they experienced abuse at Glades, according to an 88-page complaint the lawyers who are representing the Somalis in their federal lawsuit filed on January 8. The detainees had been subjected to physical abuse, excessive force followed by denial of medical attention, and inadequate medical care, according to the complaint. The Miami-based lawyers, who make the 100-mile trek to Glades as needed, including when their clients report threats to their safety, have been keeping a meticulous log of injuries sustained in detention and the type of medical care that followed.

Warsame said that after he had asked about another detainee who “guards had touched for no reason,” he was found guilty of “inciting a demonstration” and punished with 30 days in a segregation unit. On January 3, Warsame was allowed to take a shower. When a guard took him back to his cell, Warsame stuck his wrist out of a slot in the door so that the guard would remove his handcuffs. “A guard twisted Warsame’s hand so that the handcuff cut into the skin on his wrist, leaving it bleeding and swollen,” according to the complaint. “The next day, a nurse looked at him, but refused to treat the cuts on his wrist.”

Every detainee admitted to an immigration detention center is given a copy of ICE’s detainee handbook, a 28-page document with information on topics such as meals, dress code, and visitation. Also included, about halfway through the handbook, is information about filing grievances. It tells detainees what their options at the detention facility are — verbal or written complaints, emergency grievances, and appeals — as well as how to contact outside offices, such as that of the inspector general. The Office of Professional Responsibility’s 2017 review of detention facilities found “a higher instance of situations in which local facility handbooks and postings were missing mandatory information,” including regarding grievance procedures.

The guidance on filing grievances mirrors the policies laid out in the agency’s detention standards. Under the 2000 NDS, a detainee must be allowed “to submit a formal, written grievance to the facility’s grievance committee. The detainee may take this step because he/she is not satisfied with the outcome of the informal process, or because he/she decides to forgo the informal procedures.”

“Some facilities have a policy where they encourage verbal over written grievances,” said Merton, referring to a policy in the NDS that says facilities should try to resolve grievances at the lowest level before escalating to a formal complaint. “They basically prevent a paper trail by telling folks to just tell a deputy about it. Because there’s no oversight, these people are in a really vulnerable position where their grievances are not being recorded, and they may not have any contact with the outside world.”

At Glades, several Somali detainees said their right to file grievances has been impeded. Glades employees “have interfered with our clients’ right to make a grievance by threatening them and placing them in segregation when they express their intention to file a grievance,” according to the administrative complaint.

Warsame said when he asked to file a formal grievance, “the sergeant refused, cursing at him, and saying ‘You Somalis are demanding things. … This is how we do things in Glade County,’” according to the complaint, which ICE declined to comment on. Afterward, he was sent to a segregation unit.

“It would be highly inappropriate” for facility staff to retaliate against a detainee for filing a grievance, Landy said. If ICE were to investigate the Somalis’ complaints and find them to be credible, he added, there are, in theory, a few routes the agency could take. “They could ask a detention facility to discipline or fire the staff responsible. Depending on the contract provisions in effect at the facility, ICE could seek to impose monetary sanctions and more likely, they could address it informally through communications with the facility and a request for implementation of remedial measures.”

The Office of the Inspector General is investigating conditions at Glades, following the complaint from the Somalis, Lehner said. Investigators have made several trips to the facility, most recently on March 1, when they interviewed three of the detainees with complaints, she said. The office did not respond to a request for comment

Some of the detainees have reported guards saying things to them like, “The reason we’re taking it out on you is that it’s the lawyers fault, it’s the Miami lawyers’ fault,” Lehner said. She reported this to Juan Acosta, the assistant field office director for the ICE Miami Field Office, who told her immediately that it could not be true. (Yglesias, the ICE spokesperson in Miami, declined to comment on this account.)

“The thing that’s so appalling about that is that every single time we meet with them, they tell us how horrible it is,” Lehner added, “and we tell them, ‘Whatever you do, don’t act out, because if you do, they’ll take it out on you and they’ll take it out on us.’”

As the investigative process goes on, the Somalis remain in detention, hoping for one more opportunity to fight their deportations before an immigration judge. If they are unsuccessful in getting their immigration cases reopened — or if they’re ultimately met with denials — they will be sent back to Somalia, another long journey in ICE custody, with an even less certain ending on the ground.


Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor makes first court appearance; leaves jail after posting $400,000 bond



STAR TRIBUNE — The former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter in the July shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond made his first court appearance Wednesday, where his bail was set at $400,000.

During the hearing, Mohamed Noor said his first public words since the incident in south Minneapolis, spelling his name and confirming his address to Judge Kathryn Quaintance. Noor, slight and soft-spoken, said nothing else during the 15-minute hearing at the Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis.

Quaintance set his bail at $400,000 on the condition that he turn over his passport, surrender his firearms and ammunition and refrain from contacting his former partner Matthew Harrity, the lone witness in the racially charged case that drew international outrage and led to the ouster of former police Chief Janeé Harteau. Bail without conditions was set at $500,000. Noor paid the $400,000 conditional bond and left the Hennepin County jail late Wednesday in the company of his attorney.
Police union officials said that Noor was fired from the department on Tuesday.

Throughout the hearing Wednesday, Noor stood behind a glass partition in an orange jail jumpsuit, wearing a solemn expression. He barely turned to face the packed courtroom gallery, never making eye contact with a group of relatives and friends seated in the front row. Several dozen other supporters huddled in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Noor, 32, turned himself in on Tuesday morning, a day after authorities issued a sealed warrant for his arrest. He is charged with firing his gun from inside his police SUV and hitting Damond, who had called 911 to report a suspected assault in the alley behind her Fulton neighborhood home. Her death provoked protests and became a symbol, in Minneapolis and her native Australia, of how police shootings affect all communities. It also led to Harteau’s firing by then-Mayor Betsy Hodges.

Noor maintained his silence, choosing not to speak to state investigators or the grand jury investigating Damond’s death. The grand jury concluded its probe Monday, the day before Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced his charging decision.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy argued that Noor’s bail should be substantial, saying that he posed a flight risk, and that her office had developed “credible evidence” last fall that Noor had left the country.

The report proved false, but she said prosecutors grew more worried after hearing from a witness who claimed that he had “offered to hide [Noor] out.”

“These are the witness’ words, not mine,” she said.

Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said in court that the charges against his client were baseless, while calling the initial $500,000 bail “frankly, outrageous.”

He pointed out that Noor had submitted his DNA to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in June for testing, and later voluntarily went to City Hall to meet with an investigator after rumors surfaced that he had left the country.

Plunkett said that Noor posed no risk of fleeing, adding that the former officer came to Minnesota at the age of 5, escaping a civil war in his native Somalia, and had never known another home.

“He has no connection to any other place,” said Plunkett, after waiving a reading of the charges. “Your Honor, Mr. Noor is an American.”

After hearing from both sides, Quaintance offered the conditional bail and set Noor’s next court date for May 8.

“Officer Noor, like any other person charged with a crime in America, is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Quaintance said. “If he has a trial, it will be in a court of law, not in the media or in the streets.”

Defense attorney Ryan Pacyga said that he was surprised by the prosecution’s high bail request, particularly considering that Noor voluntarily turned himself in and has ties to the community.

He also scoffed at the prosecution’s depiction of Noor as a danger to the public, pointing out that his alleged crime was committed in the course of his duties as a police officer — a profession that is authorized to use deadly force if lives are in imminent danger. “The point is that we’re not talking about some madman, even under the government’s version of this case, that poses some particular danger to the community out there,” Pacyga said.

Jeronimo Yanez, the only other Minnesota officer in recent history charged in an on-duty shooting, was released on his own recognizance. A jury last summer cleared Yanez of any criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

About a month after that verdict, Damond was killed in Minneapolis.

Messages left for Noor’s father went unreturned on Wednesday.

The Somali-American Police Association broke its monthslong silence on Wednesday, saying in a statement that it was “saddened” by what it called politically and possibly racially motivated charges.

We believe Freeman is more interested in furthering his political agenda than he is in the facts surrounding this case,” the statement read. “The charges brought against Officer Noor are not intended to serve justice; rather, they are meant to make an ‘example’ of him.”

An MPD spokeswoman on Wednesday confirmed that an internal probe into the incident was ongoing, but otherwise declined to comment.

Lt. Bob Kroll said claims that Noor plotted to leave the country were news to him.

“He was on administrative leave so he had daily check-ins with [Internal Affairs], I believe,” said Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents the department’s roughly 880 sworn police officers.

He said they will likely file a grievance on Noor’s behalf to challenge the firing, which is standard practice in disciplinary cases. He said that he wasn’t entirely surprised by the department’s decision to fire Noor, who had been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. “I understand when you’ve got a person facing those charges, there’s a lot of pressure for the administration to get that person off the table, given the public outcry,” he said.

The union has come under fire from critics from both within the department and outside its ranks for not publicly defending Noor.

Noor, who joined the department three years ago, is named in a brutality lawsuit wending its way through federal court. Earlier this month, a judge in that case ruled that an attorney for the woman suing Noor along with another Minneapolis cop and the department was not allowed to ask questions about the Damond shooting.

Staff writers Elizabeth Sawyer and Faiza Mahamud contributed to this report.

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Resettlement of Somalis in Minnesota plummets in wake of Trump policies



MINNPOST — Micaela Schuneman and Ben Walen both lead refugee resettlement efforts at separate nonprofit organizations in the Twin Cities. And both have recently noticed a similar trend in their line of work: a substantial decline in the number of Somali refugee admissions.
“Last year, for my office, we had resettled 99 Somali refugees during [the first half of] our fiscal year, which started on October 1st,” said Schuneman, who’s director of refugee services at the International Institute of Minnesota. “This year, we’ve resettled 13.”

Walen, the director of refugee services at the Minnesota Council of Churches, has seen a similar pattern. In the last several years, Somalis accounted for 40 to 50 percent of the organization’s overall refugee resettlement caseload. This year, however, “we’re down to below 20 percent,” he said.

That’s a big shift from the number of Somali refugees the state has resettled in previous years. From 2014-2017 nearly 4,000 refugees from Somalia were resettled in Minnesota, which represented the single largest group of new arrivals brought here each year.

That’s not a big surprise. The administration of President Donald Trump has reduced overall refugee arrivals since it came into office in 2017. Yet the primary cause is the administration’s increased scrutiny of refugees from predominantly Muslim countries, said Schuneman and Walen.

Last year, President Trump signed an executive order seeking to temporarily suspend all refugee admissions for 120 days. Despite multiple legal challenges, the moratorium went into effect in June. When the suspension expired in October, the resettlement programs reopened their services to new arrivals — except for those from Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The U.S. government designated those nations as “high-risk,” imposing another 90-day ban to implement tighter security measures. That 90-day suspension ended in January, “but we have not seen Somali arrivals really pick up since,” said Schuneman.

Reports from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) confirm those observations. Although March marks halfway through the federal government’s fiscal year, only 57 refugees from Somalia have so far been resettled statewide. During the same period last year, that number exceeded 650.

That makes Karen refugees from Burma the largest group so far admitted in Minnesota. Statewide, a little over 240 refugees have been resettled during the current federal fiscal year. They include 60 people from Burma, 30 from Congo and 38 from Ethiopia. “People coming out of Burma are about 45 percent of our arrival so far this year,” Walen said. “Our next larger group is people from Somalia, 16 percent total.”

In addition to the seven-month ban on most Somali immigration, stricter security measures imposed on Somali immigrants — which the government says would prevent potential terrorists from coming to America — was still another factor in the reduction.

“Much of who will be resettled to the United States — and who we welcome to Minnesota through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program — is dependent on overseas screening and vetting process carried out by the U.S. Department of State in coordination with many other federal agencies,” DHS told MinnPost in an email. “These processes lead to final approval and ultimately travel to the United States. The current administration has been reviewing and updating existing processes, which has led to a dramatic slowing of arrivals to the United States.”

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Mpls. officer charged with murder in Justine Damond case



KARE 11 — MINNEAPOLIS – Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor turned himself in to authorities Tuesday after a warrant was issued for his arrest in connection with the death of Justine Damond.

Noor’s attorney Thomas Plunkett confirms the officer is currently in custody, and the Hennepin County Jail roster lists the charges against Noor as third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

According to the warrant that spells out the charges against Noor:

“There’s no evidence that, in that short timeframe, Officer Noor encountered, appreciated, investigated or confirmed a threat that justified the decision to use deadly force. Instead, Officer Noor recklessly and intentionally fired his handgun from the passenger seat. A location at which he would have been less able than Officer (Matthew) Harrity to see and hear events on the other side of the squad car.”
The warrant goes on to say that Harrity did pull out his gun, but held it to his side and didn’t fire. Statements from Harrity say both he, and Officer Noor, felt a threat.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has scheduled a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the Grand Jury Room of the courthouse to discuss his charging decision. KARE 11 will have multiple crews there and plans to carry the proceedings live. A community action group called “Justice for Justine” has announced it will hold a rally tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the intersection of 50th and Washburn Avenue South.

Damond’s family said in a written statement that they’re pleased that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman decided to bring charges. They say they hope a strong case will be presented and Noor will be convicted.
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Their statement says justice “demands accountability for those responsible for recklessly killing the fellow citizens they are sworn to protect.”
“Justine’s family in Australia and the US applaud today’s decision to criminally charge Officer Noor with Justine’s murder as one step toward justice for this iniquitous act,” reads the full family statement. “While we waited over eight months to come to this point, we are pleased with the way a grand jury and County Attorney Mike Freeman appear to have been diligent and thorough in investigating and ultimately determining that these charges are justified. We remain hopeful that a strong case will be presented by the prosecutor, backed by verified and detailed forensic evidence, and that this will lead to a conviction. No charges can bring our Justine back. However, justice demands accountability for those responsible for recklessly killing the fellow citizens they are sworn to protect, and today’s actions reflect that.”

Noor fatally shot Damond on July 15, 2017 while responding to her call of a possible sexual assault in progress.

According to the warrant, Officer Harrity told investigators that he heard a noise that startled him and Officer Noor. Harrity said he perceived that his life was in danger and unholstered his gun, holding it to his rib cage, pointing it downward. He told investigators Damond approached their squad car from the rear driver’s side then saw Officer Noor with his right arm extended. Harrity looked out the window and saw a woman, later identified as Damond, put her hands on a gunshot wound on the left side of her abdomen and say, “I’m dying” or “I’m dead,” the warrant states.

She was pronounced dead on the scene.

The death of the popular neighborhood organizer and activist triggered anger and action across the community, eventually leading to the resignation of Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau. On Tuesday, Harteau posted a statement on Twitter regarding the charges against Noor.

“Justine Damond’s family deserves answers and they deserve justice. As I originally stated Justine didn’t have to die,” Harteau tweeted. “This tragedy was the result of the actions of one officer, of which we still don’t know why. I ask people to continue to support the officers that provide selfless and honorable service every day to the citizens of Minneapolis.”

While Officer Harrity cooperated with BCA investigators in the wake of Damond’s death, Noor refused to share his side of the story, and was not compelled to by law.

In September, the BCA turned its investigation over to Freeman’s office for consideration of criminal charges against Noor. The county attorney promised a decision by the end of 2017 but it did not come. In December, a cell phone video was released of Freeman at a holiday party, with activists asking him why Noor had not been charged yet. Freeman said that he didn’t have enough evidence to charge Noor, blaming investigators who “haven’t done their job.” The interaction was recorded without Freeman’s knowledge and was posted extensively on social media.

In late January, Damond family attorney Bob Bennett told KARE 11 that a grand jury had been called to hear testimony in the case, a development the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office would not confirm, citing the secrecy of the proceedings.

That testimony began in February, with more than 30 Minneapolis police officers subpoenaed to testify, including Officer Mohamed Noor’s partner, Officer Harrity.

Officer Noor was hired by the Minneapolis Police Department on March 23, 2015 and had no prior law enforcement experience. He completed training at the Minneapolis PD Academy and was trained in numerous scenarios, intended to teach officers how to identify a threat, if any, before shooting.

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