Minneapolis Police Chief Resigns After Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The Minneapolis police chief has resigned after a fatal shooting by police there last week. The victim was Justine Ruszczyk. She also went by the name Justin Damond. She was fatally shot Saturday night after she approached a squad car. The yoga instructor had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home.
Andy Mannix is covering this story for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He joins us now. And before we get to this shakeup in the department, remind us the details. What happened in the shooting that makes it so controversial?
ANDY MANNIX: Sure. So basically what happened was Justine Damond - she's a 40-year-old woman from Australia. She's engaged to be married to a man in Minneapolis who she's living with here in south Minneapolis. She called 911 last Saturday night around 11:30 to report a woman screaming. She thought this woman may be in trouble. The officers arrived. And one of the officers, a man named Mohamed Noor, shoots her in the stomach from inside the police car and kills her on the scene.
And you know, we've been trying to unpack exactly why he produced and fired his weapon. But she was, you know, unarmed and, as far anyone can tell, just going over to talk to the officers to let them know what was going on.
CORNISH: Tell us about the community reaction. What kind of criticism was the police chief facing as a result?
MANNIX: Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau has come under quite a bit of criticism. You know, some context is that this is not the first high-profile police shooting we've had here. There was one a couple - well, about a year and a half ago, a guy named Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man, who was killed by Minneapolis police officers. There was a situation - it was a different department - but right outside of Minneapolis - Philando Castile. So there's been, you know, this huge conversation about - in the Twin Cities here - police reform, more accountability for police. So this sort of comes in the aftermath of all of that.
You know, other criticisms have been, were these officers trained correctly? They were wearing body cameras but were not recording, so we don't have that objective video evidence that a lot of people would like. People are really upset about that. You know, again, the fact that this guy shot, to some, has called into question training.
And finally, you know, Harteau's been taking a lot of flak because she wasn't here. The chief was not here when this happened. She was out on vacation, and she didn't come back for about four days. And a lot of people thought that that was just, you know, bad optics; that sent a bad message.
CORNISH: So statements tonight from both police chief Janee Harteau and Mayor Betsy Hodges. Let's start with the police chief. What reasons did she give for her resignation?
MANNIX: Yeah, I mean it's kind of, you know, frankly a pretty boilerplate statement. She's saying she's spent a lot of time reflecting on this since it happened. You know, she thinks it's time for her to step away and let someone else take over. And you know, a little bit of context is her relationship with the mayor, with some other people in the city has been fairly dicey, you know? It's been kind of publicly stormy, to say the least. So, you know, that's also just a little bit of context of where this comes in.
CORNISH: In the meantime, what's happened with Mohamed Noor, the officer who shot Justine Ruszczyk?
MANNIX: He is - he's not been arrested or, you know - he's not been charged with a crime - nothing like that. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is a state police agency, is investigating the shooting. It sounds like they've asked him for a - an interview, and he has so far declined. He's hired a lawyer and is basically not cooperating at this point. His partner did agree to an interview with the BCA, and we got a little bit of information on how that went - although, you know, really nothing that helps us understand how this could have happened.
CORNISH: Andy Mannix is covering this story for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Thank you so much.
MANNIX: All right, thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.