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Minneapolis police officer who shot, killed Justine Damond identified

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By David Chanen and Andy Mannix Star Tribune

The Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed a 40-year-old woman in the alley behind her home Saturday night has been identified as Officer Mohamed Noor. Meanwhile, state investigators have confirmed that they did not find any weapons at the scene.

Noor, 31, joined the department in March 2015 as the first Somali police officer to patrol the 5th Precinct in southwest Minneapolis, according to a city newsletter. He holds a degree in Economics and Business Administration from Augsburg College. Before joining the department, he worked in property management in commercial and residential properties in Minneapolis and St. Louis, Mo.

Noor has been sued once in his short career with the police department, stemming from a May 25, 2017 incident, in which he and two other officers came to a woman’s home and took her to the hospital, which the woman alleges constituted false imprisonment, assault and battery. According to the recently filed and ongoing lawsuit, the officers claimed they had reason to believe the woman was suffering a mental health crisis — which she denied — and Noor “grabbed her right wrist and upper arm,” exacerbating a previous shoulder injury in the process.

An exchange between police from the night of the shooting, posted by website Minnesota PoliceClips, shows one officer indicating a “female standing behind a building” on Washburn Avenue. Seconds later, another officer reports “shots fired” and “one down” in the same location, and then an officer says he’s performing CPR. An officer also notes that there’s no suspect at large. It’s unclear if the audio is edited or compressed for time.

On Monday, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension confirmed that officers were responding to a 911 call of a “possible assault.” “At one point an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman,” the news release said. “BCA crime scene personnel located no weapons at the scene.”

The BCA confirmed that an autopsy has been completed. After confirming yesterday that there was no body camera or dashcam footage of the incident, the agency said the investigation “does not determine whether a law enforcement agency policy was violated. That would be reviewed through the agency’s internal affairs process.”

The BCA has not officially named Noor, but a source confirmed that he was the shooter. Attorney Tom Plunkett is representing the officer, but declined to identify him.

At the same time, a neighborhood has continued to struggle for answers as to what caused the shooting. Family members said Damond called 911 that night to report a possible assault in the alley behind her home.

The morning afterward about 200 people gathered Sunday to mournd Damond. Loving messages remain written in chalk on the sidewalk near the scene, at the end of the alley on W. 51st Street between Washburn and Xerxes avenues S. in the city’s Fulton neighborhood. A bouquet of flowers rested on the windshield of an SUV.

Damond, from Sydney, Australia, and her fiancé, Don Damond, lived in the 5000 block of Washburn.

“This is about Justine; it’s about Don, a horrific thing has happened in their lives, but it reverberates through the community,” said neighbor Richard Burbach, looking on as Australian news crews gathered around the Damond home. “I hope that the global media can continue to put enough focus on this that there is a kind of pressure that will provide an essential ingredient that will change policing, not just in Minneapolis but the country as well.”

Gov. Mark Dayton had no comment Monday on the shooting. Law enforcement had previously criticized Dayton for comments he made the day after Philando Castile was killed by former St. Anthony police officer Jerimano Yanez.

“Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white?” Dayton asked last year. “I don’t think it would have. … On behalf of all decent-minded Minnesotans, we are shocked and horrified. This kind of behavior is unacceptable.”

Three sources with knowledge of the incident said Sunday that two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley. Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, sources said.

“Two Minneapolis police officers responded to a 911 call of a possible assault just north of the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue S. just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday,” the BCA said in a news release. “At one point, an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman.

“The BCA’s investigation is in its early stages. More information will be available once initial interviews with incident participants and any witnesses are complete. … The officers’ body cameras were not turned on at the time and the squad camera did not capture the incident. Investigators are attempting to determine whether any video of the incident exists.”

Minneapolis police confirmed that the two officers involved are on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure.

In Minneapolis, police officers are required to wear body cameras any time they could “reasonably anticipate” they will need to record an incident. The policy specifies that officers record any use of force, as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges and assistant police chief Medaria Arradondo addressed the media. They declined to comment on details of the officer shooting of a woman in south Minneapolis the night before because the BCA is assigned to the case. CREDIT: Richard Tsong-Taatarii

The ACLU has called for penalties for the officer’s failure to activate body cameras.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges called the shooting “tragic” in a news conference at City Hall late Sunday afternoon, appearing with assistant Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Linea Palmisano, who represents the 13th Ward on the City Council.

“I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by the fatal officer-involved shooting that happened last night,” Hodges said.

“I know the neighborhood well,” said Hodges, who represented the area for eight years as a City Council member.

“We have few facts at this point,” she said. “I want to know more. I call on the BCA to share as much information with all of us as quickly as they can.

“I have questions about why the bodycams weren’t on,” she said.

Arradondo confirmed that the officer bodycam program is fully rolled out in Minneapolis but declined to say more about why there is no footage of the shooting.

Zach Damond, 22, arrived at the scene with a close family friend about 11:30 a.m. Sunday. While the couple were not yet married, Justine referred to herself as Damond on her personal website. Her maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk.

“Basically, my mom’s dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know,” Zach Damond said, referring to Justine. “I demand answers. If anybody can help, just call police and demand answers. I’m so done with all this violence.”

Damond said Justine called police after she “heard a sound in the alley.”

He left the scene at noon Sunday to go to the airport to pick up his father, who had been on a business trip.

From her home in the middle of the block, Justine Damond would have had to walk a little more than 100 yards to get to the end of the alley.

There are three lights mounted on telephone poles along that route plus nine motion-detector lights on garages, and neighbors said the alley is well-lit at night.

A woman named Hannah, who came to the scene with Zach Damond and is a close family friend, said Justine was a “spiritual healer.” Hannah, 21, did not want her last name used for safety reasons.

“I don’t know what she was doing out,” Hannah said. “She’s such a kind woman. She took me in when I was in a tough situation and helped me with whatever I needed.

“They were just so in love,” Hannah said of Justine and Don Damond. “I’m just kind of in disbelief.”

At a community vigil in the neighborhood on Sunday night, about 50 friends and neighbors held hands in a semicircle around the spot where Damond fell, while another 200 or more people watched from the sidewalk and the street. Some sobbed.

“This woman was a beautiful light,” said Bethany Bradley of Women’s March Minnesota, who had been at the scene since Sunday morning. “She was loved. She should still be here.

“It’s OK to cry, it’s OK to scream,” she said. “Share what you’re feeling.”

Leslie Redmond of the Minneapolis NAACP said she and other members of the NAACP who attended “stand in solidarity with the family.”

Nekima Levy-Pounds, one of three mayoral candidates who attended, said, “I hope and pray this is a wake-up call for the community to stop being divided by race and socioeconomic status … for treating everybody with respect.”

Dustin Johnson and his wife, Roz, live across the street from Justine and Don Damond. They saw the flashing lights and walked over to see police trying to resuscitate Damond as she lay on the ground.

Johnson said he heard no gunshots.

Justine Damond’s website says she “originally trained as a veterinarian” and “has also studied and practiced yoga and meditation for over 17 years, is a qualified yoga instructor, a personal health and life coach and meditation teacher, embracing and teaching the neuro-scientific benefits of meditation.”

She attended high school in Sydney. The story of her death was front-page news in Australia.

Earlier Sunday, someone drew colorful chalk hearts on the driveway pad where Damond was shot, adding names of others, including Jamar Clark and Philando Castile, who were fatally shot by police. A few hours later, Hannah, an artist, added “Live in love not fear” to the drawings.

Hannah said there’s no way Damond would have had a gun. She often talked about how much better it was in Australia, where people aren’t allowed to have guns, Hannah said.

Staff writers David Chanen, Libor Jany and Erin Adler contributed to this report.

BREAKING NEWS

US funds for Somalia could be diverted to Shabaab, watchdog warns

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The State Department’s Africa Bureau is failing to ensure that US funding for the Somali government is not diverted to Al-Shabaab terror group, the department’s watchdog unit warned on Monday.

“The bureau had not established policy and procedures for identifying, assessing and mitigating terrorist financing risks for its programmes in countries where terrorist organisations, such as Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, operate,” the State Department’s Office of Inspector General said.

In a 34-page report assessing the bureau’s foreign assistance management, a team of inspectors cited the example of $66 million paid as cash stipends to members of the Somali National Army during the past seven years.

AL-SHABAAB

Inadequate oversight of that assistance could enable Al-Shabaab to siphon off some of that money intended for 6,509 Somali government soldiers, the report suggested.

In addition, inspectors found that the Africa Bureau continued paying the soldiers’ stipends while failing to comply with a US law that prohibits State Department assistance to foreign military units that have not been screened for human rights violations.

That lapsed compliance with the so-called Leahy Law spanned several months in 2014 and again in a period spanning 2016 and 2017, the report said.

VETTING

“Furnishing security assistance without conducting Leahy vetting raises the risk that funds could be provided to individuals who have committed gross violations of human rights or are otherwise ineligible for assistance,” the report stated.

The law in question — named for its primary author, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy — requires the US State Department and Pentagon to determine whether potential aid recipients carry out extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and rapes.

The State Department’s own worldwide report on human rights found in 2016 that Somali government forces abused civilians. Somali authorities “generally did not investigate abuse by police, army or militia members,” the 2016 evaluation added. “A culture of impunity was widespread.”

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New York truck attack: Investigators scour driver’s background

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New York – Investigators worked through the night to determine what led a truck driver to plow down people on a riverfront bike path near the World Trade Center, brandishing air guns and yelling “God is great” in Arabic as his deadly route of terror ended with a crash, authorities said.

Eight people were killed and 11 seriously injured in a Halloween afternoon attack that the mayor called “a particularly cowardly act of terror”.

The driver – identified by officials as an immigrant from Uzbekistan – was in critical condition but expected to survive after a police officer shot him in the abdomen. A roughly 3km stretch of highway in downtown Manhattan was shut down for the investigation.

Authorities also converged on a New Jersey home and a van in a parking lot at a New Jersey Home Depot store. Authorities were scrutinising a note found inside the attacker’s rented truck, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorised to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Police and the FBI urged members of the public to give them any photos or video that could help. The attack echoed a strategy that the Islamic State (ISIS) group has been suggesting to its followers. While police didn’t specifically blame any group for the strike, President Donald Trump railed against ISIS and declared “enough!” and “NOT IN THE U.S.A.!”

The victims reflected a city that is a melting pot and a magnet for visitors: One of the dead was from Belgium. Five were from Argentina and were celebrating the 30th anniversary of a school graduation, according to officials in those countries. The injured included students and staffers on a school bus that the driver rammed.

“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

‘He did not seem like a terrorist’

Officials who were not authorised to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity identified the slight, bearded attacker as Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old who came to the US legally in 2010. He has a Florida driver’s licence but may have been staying in New Jersey, they said.

Records show Saipov was a commercial truck driver who formed a pair of businesses in Ohio. He had also driven for Uber, the ride-hailing company said. An Ohio marriage licence shows that a truck driver with one of Saipov’s addresses and his name, spelled slightly differently, married a fellow Uzbek in 2013.

During his time in Fort Myers, Florida, several years ago, Saipov was “a very good person”, an acquaintance, Kobiljon Matkarov, told The New York Times.

“He liked the US. He seemed very lucky, and all the time, he was happy and talking like everything is OK. He did not seem like a terrorist, but I did not know him from the inside,” Matkarov said. He said Saipov later moved to New Jersey and began driving for Uber. San Francisco-based Uber said he started over six months ago.

Police said the attacker rented the truck at about 14:00 at a New Jersey Home Depot and then went into New York City, entering the bike path about an hour later and speeding toward the World Trade Center, the site of the deadliest terror attack in US history.

He barrelled along the bike path in the truck for the equivalent of about 14 blocks, or around eight-tenths of a mile, before slamming into a small yellow school bus.

“A person hopped out of the car with two guns and started yelling and screaming,” said a 12-year-old student who had just left a nearby school. “They were yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’.”

‘I saw a lot of blood’

The student, whose mother asked that his name be withheld, said he ran back into the school, where students cried and huddled in a corner.

Video shot by bystanders showed Saipov walking through traffic wielding what looked like two handguns, but which police later said were a paintball gun and a pellet gun. A police officer shot Saipov when he wouldn’t drop the weapons, police said.

The mayhem set off panic in the neighbourhood and left the pavement strewn with mangled bicycles and bodies that were soon covered with sheets.

“I saw a lot of blood over there. A lot of people on the ground,” said Chen Yi, an Uber driver.

The note inside the truck was handwritten in a foreign language, according to one of the two law enforcement officials who spoke about the document. Both said its contents were being investigated but supported the belief the act was terrorism.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called Tuesday’s carnage a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.

New York and other cities around the globe have been on high alert against attacks by extremists in vehicles. England, France and Germany have seen deadly vehicle attacks in the past year or so.

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BREAKING NEWS

Secretary-General condemns Saturday’s attacks in Mogadishu; commend responders

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15 October 2017 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today commended the first responders and residents of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, for mobilizing to aid in what is being called Somalia’s worst-ever bomb attack.

In a statement from his spokesperson, the Secretary-General urged all Somalis “to unite in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism and work together in building a functional and inclusive federal state.”

Strongly condemning the attacks, he conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families, as well as his wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured.

According to media reports, at least 200 people were killed and an even greater number of people were injured.

The Secretary-Generals Special Representative in Somalia, Michael Keating today said that the UN and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) were working closely to support the response by the Federal Government of Somalia and local government authorities, including the provision of logistical support, medical supplies and expertise in the aftermath of the bombings.

“It is a revolting attack both in terms of its intent and impact,” the Special Representative said.

The Special Representative said that the immediate priority is to support efforts led by the authorities to recover from the attack and help all those affected, especially the injured and newly homeless.

“The international community will do everything possible to help the people and government of Somalia to overcome this tragedy,” he said.

According to media reports, a massive car bomb detonated outside the entrance to a hotel in the city’s K5 junction, which is home to government offices, hotels and restaurants.

Later in the day, a second bombing was reported in the city’s Madina district.

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