Connect with us

US News

Somalis in Minneapolis Shocked and Saddened by Police Shooting

Published

on

MINNEAPOLIS — His hiring by the Minneapolis Police Department was hailed by the mayor as “a wonderful sign.” Hundreds of Somalis attended an event at a local mall welcoming him to the force, lining up to take pictures and shake his hand.

But just 14 months after Mohamed Noor became the first Somali police officer to be stationed in his precinct, which has a large immigrant population, he is now under scrutiny for fatally shooting an Australian woman after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home.

The encounter has drawn international outrage about American police practices; the Australian prime minister on Wednesday condemned the shooting of Justine Damond as “a shocking killing.” Her loved ones, including her father, John Ruszczyk, who lives in Sydney, have said they were desperate for information about what happened. “Justine was a beacon to all of us,” he said.

On Wednesday, more details emerged. In the minutes before being shot on Saturday, Ms. Damond, whose legal name was Justine Ruszczyk, called 911 twice, according to transcripts released by the Minneapolis police.

“I can hear someone out the back and I, I’m not sure if she’s having sex or being raped,” she told the dispatcher, “but it’s been going on for a while and I think she tried to say help and it sounds distressed.”

The dispatcher said an officer was on the way. Eight minutes later, with apparently no officers yet on scene, Ms. Damond called again to reiterate her concern for the woman, asking whether the police had the wrong address.

The dispatcher assured her that officers were coming, and the call ended. Shortly thereafter, Officer Noor arrived in the alley.

Officer Noor’s hiring was seen as a bridge to a refugee community that has at times felt victimized by the police. Now, one of their own is the one in uniform accused of brutality. On Wednesday, the mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, posted a Facebook message addressed to Somali residents, seeking to assure them that they “are a valued and appreciated part of Minneapolis.”

Mahamed Yusuf was at Karmel Mall for Officer Noor’s welcome, and said that local Somalis had been heartened to have one of their own on the police force.

“We have a guy between the police and the community,” Mr. Yusuf said. Since the shooting, he said, Somalis have been “burning inside” and grasping for answers.

“He was looking so nice and humble, and he loved his job,” Mr. Yusuf, 63, said. “Everybody in the community is shocked and sad.”

As the Somali immigrant population in Minneapolis has grown, members of the community have sometimes expressed frustration with law enforcement. In 2002, after Minneapolis officers fatally shot a Somali man carrying a machete, critics accused the officers of using excessive force, claiming the man was mentally ill and did not understand English.

More recently, some Somalis here have criticized the tactics used in federal prosecutions of young men accused of trying to join overseas terrorist organizations. The strain of police shootings of black people — with a few prominent cases in the Twin Cities area — has also left some Somalis wary of law enforcement.

The Minneapolis police have worked in recent years to add Somali officers to the force and have reached out to the immigrant community. After last year’s presidential election, amid heightened concern about deportations, a Somali-speaking officer recorded a YouTube video assuring residents that the local police did not enforce immigration law.

Ms. Hodges also said that Officer Noor “won’t be treated differently than any other officer” and that the shooting had happened “under circumstances we don’t yet comprehend.”

“We cannot compound that tragedy by turning to racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia,” Ms. Hodges said. “It is unjust and ridiculous to assert that an entire community be held responsible for the actions of one person. That will not be tolerated in Minneapolis.”

Minneapolis police records show that Officer Noor has been the subject of three citizen complaints during his short career. Two of those cases remain open, and one was closed without any discipline. Details about those incidents were not released. Court records show that Mr. Noor has a son born in 2010, and that he was involved in 2015 in a custody dispute with the mother, who wanted to move out of state.
A day before the shooting, a lawsuit accusing Officer Noor and two of his colleagues of misconduct was filed in federal court. The lawsuit, filed by a woman who said the police had illegally taken her into custody for a mental health checkup in May, said Officer Noor had taken her phone from her hand “and then grabbed her right wrist and upper arm, thereby immobilizing her.”

Jordan S. Kushner, a lawyer for the woman, said Officer Noor “was a participant in what we consider a real egregious and dramatic violation of her rights.” He noted that his client had initially called the police for help that day, just as the woman Officer Noor shot on Saturday did.

Officer Noor’s lawyer did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. Officer Noor has so far declined to speak with state investigators about the shooting. No one answered the door on Wednesday at an apartment tied to him.

Large numbers of Somali refugees, fleeing violence and famine in their homeland, began arriving in Minneapolis in the 1990s, and around 30,000 are said to now live in the Twin Cities area. Members of the community have been elected to public office, worked as journalists and joined the military. But over the years, many Somalis have expressed frustration with their portrayals in the news media, saying reporters have unfairly emphasized stories about terrorist recruitment and cultural differences.

Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali community leader in Minneapolis, said that the relationship between the local police and Somalis had improved significantly in recent years and that the community celebrates when one of its members becomes an officer. He knows several Somali youths considering careers in law enforcement.

“We worked so hard to get Somali police officers,” Mr. Bihi said.

Mr. Bihi said Somalis empathized with Ms. Damond as a fellow immigrant, but resented the news media attention on Officer Noor’s heritage.

“Why in the world would he be seen as a Somali and not a Minneapolis police officer?” Mr. Bihi said. “The community feels betrayed.”

The shooting also made headlines in Somalia, where many worried it could paint a negative image of Somalis and harm the status of refugee applications, many of which have been rejected under President Trump’s travel ban.

“Many Somalis are talking about the case as though the case occurred here in Somalia,” said Abdirahman Hassan Omar, a lawyer based in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. “Because of the travel ban, this is making us worried a lot.”

The shooting, said Nadiir Shariif Maqbuul, an activist in Mogadishu, will affect the Somali communities not only in Australia and the United States, but also in Europe and elsewhere.

In Minneapolis, people who had met Officer Noor struggled to square their recollections of him with the shooting of Ms. Damond, which, so far at least, has defied explanation.

“Officer Noor was a good guy,” said Abdihakim Bashir, 35, who was shopping on Wednesday at the bustling Karmel Mall. “We were very surprised by the news. We don’t know what happened. It was an accident, and every human can make a mistake.”

Minnesota

Rep. Ellison, Rep. Emmer, and Colleagues Introduce Resolution Condemning Terror Attack in Mogadishu

Published

on

WASHINGTON — On the one-month anniversary of the October 14th terror attack on Mogadishu, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), along with Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Karen Bass (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced House Resolution 620, which condemns the attack, expresses sympathy for its victims and their families, and reaffirms U.S. support for Somalia.

The October 14th terror attack killed more than 350 people, including three American citizens, and injured another 200—making it the single deadliest in Somalia’s history.

“It’s been a month since the terrible and cowardly attack on Mogadishu, and my heart still breaks for the people of Somalia and their families and friends here in the United States,” Ellison said. “The people of Somalia have shown incredible resilience— coming together not only as part of an inspiring effort to recover from this attack, but also to rebuild their nation in the spirit of peace and prosperity. I am proud to stand with my colleagues to express solidarity with the people of Somalia by strongly condemning the senseless violence, extending our condolences to all those affected by the attack, and reaffirming continued U.S. support for Somalia.”

“Just over a month ago, Mogadishu experienced a horrific and tragic terrorist attack,” said Emmer. “This attack hit close to home with three of our fellow Americans – including one Minnesotan – among the more than 350 men, women and children who lost their lives far too soon. I stand with my colleagues and the Somali community to condemn last month’s attack. I am proud to work with my colleagues to offer condolences and lend support as Somalia works to rebuild itself and its communities in the wake of this recent tragedy. Today, and every day, we stand against terror and join together to rid this world of evil.”
The full text of the resolution reads as follows:

“Strongly condemning the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017, and expressing condolences and sympathies to the victims of the attack and their families.

Whereas on October 14, 2017, a truck bomb filled with military grade and homemade explosives detonated at a busy intersection in the center of Mogadishu, Somalia, and took the lives of more than 350 people and injured more than 200 additional people;

Whereas at least three Americans, Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, were killed in the attack;

Whereas the Somali Government believes that Al-Shabaab was responsible for the attack, although no official claims of responsibility have yet been made;

Whereas Al-Shabaab has previously avoided claiming responsibility for Al Shabaab operations when it believes the operation may significantly damage its public image among Somalis;

Whereas the Department of State condemned ‘‘in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that killed and injured hundreds in Mogadishu on October 14’’;

Whereas the Department of State stated that ‘‘the United States will continue to stand with the Somali government, its people, and our international allies to combat terrorism and support their efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity’’;

Whereas according to the Department of State’s Country Report on Terrorism for 2016, Al-Shabaab is the most potent threat to regional stability in East Africa;

Whereas the United States continues to support counterterrorism efforts in coordination with the Government of Somalia, international partners, and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) mainly through capacity building programs, advise and assist missions, and intelligence support;

Whereas Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of national mourning in response to the attack;

Whereas the vibrant, bustling district of Mogadishu where the attack occurred is characteristic of the city’s revitalization, and the solidarity and efforts by the city’s residents to rebuild already are a testament to their resilience; and

Whereas Somalia has been a strong partner to the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017;

(2) expresses its heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies for the victims of the attack and their families;

(3) honors the memories of Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, who were murdered in the horrific terrorist attack;

(4) recognizes the significant efforts to combat terrorism by the Government of Somalia, the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, and United States forces in Somalia;

(5) reaffirms United States support for the Government of Somalia’s efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity and combat terrorism in Somalia; and

(6) renews the solidarity of the people and Government of the United States with the people and Government of Somalia.”

Continue Reading

US News

Newcomer Mazahir Salih wins Iowa City Council seat

Published

on

IOWA CITY — Two familiar faces were re-elected to the Iowa City Council Tuesday night, while newcomer Mazahir Salih won the third open seat.

Current at-large member Susan Mims was elected to her third term on council, this time to represent District B after defeating opponent and University of Iowa student Ryan Hall with 4,197 votes to 2,920.

Mayor Pro Tem Kingsley Botchway II, with 5,638, votes was re-elected to his at-large seat, after both he and Salih, with 5,573 votes, beat out opponent and Nighttime Mayor Angela Winnike, who tallied 1,388 votes.

“(I’m) very pleased to have the opportunity to serve the community for another four years,” Mims said, adding that she believes now the council will review and update its strategic plan. “I would think it would look a lot similar to what we have.

“We’ve still got a lot of things to do on the environmental stuff, climate change, affordable housing. I don’t think we’ll see significant changes because we’re still in the middle of a lot of those things.”

All three terms are for four years each. Tuesday’s election winners will join current Mayor Jim Throgmorton as well as council members Rockne Cole, Pauline Taylor and John Thomas.

Current District B representative Terry Dickens did not seek re-election.

During the campaign, both Salih and Botchway discussed improving Iowa City’s affordable housing situation. The current council adopted an Affordable Housing Action Plan, which was approved in September 2016, to address the lack of appropriate housing within the city.

Botchway said now that some work on the affordable housing issue is underway, he also wants to emphasize creating mental health programs and policies in his next term.

“That’s a larger conversation and we need to get a lot of stakeholders together,” Botchway said, noting that some area officials already have undergone crisis intervention training. “The mental health platform that I’ve discussed is a little more comprehensive than that in making sure to focus on mental illness across the board.”

Salih, who worked as a community organizer with the Center for Worker Justice, expressed interested during the campaign in improving the city’s transit system, especially for low-income residents. The public transportation system currently offers no service on Sundays with hourly stops on weekdays on most routes.

“I think low-wage workers, they need transportation on Sunday, after hours like second shift,” said Salih, who could not be reached for comment by deadline on Tuesday for this story. “While I talk to people in this community, some people have great ideas but they cannot participate on, like, City Council meetings, school board meetings because transportation ends early in some parts of the city.”

Iowa City Council members earn a salary of $7,155.20, while the mayor receives $8,153.60, according to an email from City Clerk Kellie Fruehling. The salaries are adjusted for inflation at the end of each September but aren’t implemented until July 1.

VOTER TURNOUT

This year saw low voter turnout, with only 15.5 percent of registered voters showing up to polls Tuesday. In the 2015 city election, Iowa City saw a 15.2 percent turnout while 2013 had a 22.39 percent turnout, thanks in part to a ballot measure that concerned an under-21 bar ordinance.

“We saw early voting numbers down, but we were hoping that people would turn out today. I mean these are very key races,” said Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert Tuesday afternoon.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.co

Continue Reading

Diaspora

Gunman kills at least 26 worshipers at small-town Texas church

Published

on

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (Reuters) – A gunman dressed in black tactical gear massacred at least 26 worshipers and wounded 20 others at a white-steepled church in Texas on Sunday, carrying out the latest in a series of mass shootings that have plagued the United States.

The lone suspect, also wearing a ballistic vest and carrying a Ruger assault rifle, fired into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and kept shooting after he went inside. Sutherland Springs is in Wilson County, about 40 miles (65 km) east of San Antonio.

The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old, law enforcement officials told a news conference. Among the dead was the 14-year-old daughter of Pastor Frank Pomeroy, the family told several television stations.

After the shooting, the gunman, described as a white man in his 20s, was fired on by a local resident with a rifle. The suspect dropped his assault weapon, and fled in his vehicle, said Freeman Martin, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Soon afterward, the suspect crashed his vehicle near the border of neighboring Guadalupe County and was found dead inside with a cache of weapons.

It was not immediately clear if the suspect killed himself or was hit when the resident fired at him outside the church, authorities said.

“We are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our state’s history,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said at the news conference. “The tragedy of course is worsened by the fact that it occurred in a church, a place of worship where these people were innocently gunned down.”

The suspect’s identity was not disclosed by authorities, but law enforcement officials who asked not to be named said he was Devin Patrick Kelley, described as a white, 26-year-old man, the New York Times and other media reported.

“We don’t think he had any connection to this church,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CNN. “We have no motive.”

‘ACT OF EVIL’

Jeff Forrest, a 36-year-old military veteran who lives a block away from the church, said what sounded like high-caliber, semi-automatic gunfire triggered memories of his four combat deployments with the Marine Corps.

“I was on the porch, I heard 10 rounds go off and then my ears just started ringing,” Forrest said. “I hit the deck and I just lay there.”

The massacre came just weeks after a sniper killed 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The shootings have stirred a years-long national debate over whether easy access to firearms was contributing to the trend.

President Donald Trump said he was monitoring the situation while in Japan on a 12-day Asian trip.

“This act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of sacred worship,” the president said. “Through the tears and through the sadness we stand strong, oh so strong.”

According to the witnesses, about 20 shots rang out at 11:30 a.m. (1730 GMT) during the church services, according to media reports. It was unclear how many worshipers were inside at the time.

Connally Memorial Medical Center in Floresville received eight patients, the hospital said in a statement, while Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston received another eight.

At Connally, three people were treated and released, one is in critical condition and four were transferred to the University Hospital in San Antonio for a higher level of care.

The First Baptist Church is one of two houses of worship in Sutherland Springs, an area home to fewer than 900 residents, according to the 2010 Census. There are also two gas stations and a Dollar General store in town.

The white-painted, one-story structure features a small steeple and a single front door. On Sunday, the Lone Star flag of Texas was flying alongside the U.S. flag and a third, unidentified banner.

Inside, there is a small raised platform on which members sang worship songs to guitar music and the pastor delivered a weekly sermon, according to videos posted on YouTube. In one of the clips, a few dozen people, including young children, can be seen sitting in the wooden pews.

Devin P. Kelley

SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE

While authorities provided little information about the suspect, online records show that a man named Devon Patrick Kelley lived in New Braunfels, Texas, about 35 miles (56 km) north of Sutherland Springs.

The U.S. Air Force said Kelley served in its Logistics Readiness unit at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge.

Kelley’s Facebook page has been deleted, but cached photos show a profile picture where he appeared with two small children. He also posted a photo of what appeared to be an assault rifle, writing a post that read: “she’s a bad bitch.”

The shooting occurred on the eighth anniversary of the Nov. 5, 2009, massacre of 13 people at the Fort Hood Army base in central Texas. A U.S. Army Medical Corps psychiatrist convicted of the killings is now awaiting execution.

In 2015, a white gunman killed nine black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The gunman was sentenced to death for the racially motivated attack.

In September, a gunman killed a woman in the parking lot of a Tennessee church on Sunday morning and wounded six worshipers inside the building before shooting himself in a scuffle with an usher who rushed to stop the attack.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

TRENDING

Copyright © BARTAMAHA MEDIA.