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Justine didn't have to die: police chief


“Justine didn’t have to die”. That’s the verdict of a US police chief on the shooting of an Australian woman by one of her officers.

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Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau has vowed to pursue justice for Justine Damond as her family deals with their grief.

The 40-year-old from Sydney was shot in the stomach at point blank range by officer Mohamed Noor after she called police to report a possible a rape in progress near her Fulton home.

“This should not have happened,” Harteau said in her first public comments on the tragedy.

“On our squad cars you will find the words ‘to protect with courage, and serve with compassion’. This did not happen.”

The police chief spoke to Damond’s fiance Don Damond, 53, on Thursday but said she hadn’t spoken directly to Noor.

The officer stands accused of shooting the bride-to-be after she approached the police car in her pyjamas in the alley behind her house on Saturday night.

Initial investigations found he fired from the passenger seat across his partner, hitting Damond in the stomach.

He’s so far refused to be interviewed by investigators.

“I told him (Mr Damond) I was sorry for his loss and that this did not have to happen. And again, Justine did not have to die,” Harteau said.

“I’ll do everything in my power to make sure due process is followed and justice is served.”

Harteau said Don Damond had expressed “the concern and fear our community may have in calling 911”.

“Although disheartening, I understand the fear and why it exists,” she said, saying local police must work to win back the trust of the community.

But she also noted “we are talking about one individual’s actions”.

The police chief also said Noor, who’s been stood down, must be afforded due process as investigators continue to piece together the chain of events.

While Noor hasn’t spoken with state investigators he has a constitutional right not to do so.

But Minneapolis police department’s internal affairs unit can compel him to give a statement as part of its own investigation, and fire him if he refuses.

Neither of the two officers who attended Damond’s call were wearing activated body cameras. A dash camera was also turned off.

Harteau said the police department was looking at new technologies to ensure cameras were automatically activated, including systems that would switch them on when officers drew their weapons or activated squad car lights.

Noor’s work, training and psychological records will be put under the microscope by a high-profile Minnesota lawyer representing Damond’s grieving Australian family.

Robert Bennett is preparing to file a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the family accusing Noor, 32, and the City of Minneapolis of the unnecessary use of deadly force against Damond.

If the lawsuit is successful it could reap “significant potential civil damages” for her family who want Noor kicked out of the police force.

“I don’t think he should have been an officer before and I certainly don’t think he should be one going forward,” Bennett told AAP.

“He certainly doesn’t have good no shoot, shoot, decision making and he seems to be a danger to the public and to other officers by virtue of his conduct as we have seen it so far.”

Noor’s lawyer, Tom Plunkett, has declined AAP’s interview requests.


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