The controversial shooting death of a woman in Minnesota has been the subject of national and international concern and alarm. An officer shot a Minnesota woman for what appears to be no reason. She was not armed. She had called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley near her house. For some reason, she herself, was outside when officers arrived and apparently approached the squad car. After that, things get more fuzzy. The woman was shot and killed by a gunshot wound to her abdomen. An officer, two years on the Minneapolis Police Department, allegedly leaned over this partner to discharge his weapon upon reportedly hearing a loud noise. Some report it to be fireworks. Did others hear fireworks?
This shooting cries out for an investigation and answers. It appears to be inexplicable. But when someone, even an officer, shoots first and then thinks about it later, the victim doesn’t get to tell his/her story. What could possibly have gone wrong? What prompts and officer to be so fearful of an unarmed citizen who, by most accounts, was not a threat?
In Minnesota, this is the third such recent incident of officer involved shootings that have raised eyebrows and caused protests and even trials of officers. First there was Jamar Clark. Then Philando Castile. And now Justine Damond.
Some explanations are rolling out but don’t seem to provide good answers so far. From the linked article above:
“It’s certainly reasonable to assume that any police officer would be concerned about a possible ambush under these circumstances,” Bruno said. “It was only a few weeks ago when a female NYPD cop and mother of twins was executed in her car in a very similar scenario.”
Bruno was referencing the case of New York City police officer Miosotis Familia, 48, who was killed July 5 after a mentally ill man shot her in the head while she sat in her squad car in the Bronx.
Officers do have justification to be fearful of ambushes because they have happened with some frequency in America. (Pittsburgh, Tacoma, NYC, Their lives are on the line whenever they are on duty.
And then, this:
On Tuesday the BCA released some information, based in part on an interview with Harrity, who said the two were responding at 11:30 p.m. to a call of a possible assault in the quiet Fulton neighborhood when he was startled by a “loud sound.” Damon, who was the 911 caller, approached Harrity in the driver’s side window of the squad car “immediately afterward,” according to the statement.
Noor, who was in the passenger seat, then fired across his partner, striking Damond in the abdomen.
A loud noise sounding maybe like gunshots? Did anyone else hear that noise? Would that be enough to shoot someone? Especially an unarmed woman?
She first called officers trying to help someone she thought was being raped:
Justine Damond spent her last moments trying to help a stranger.
At 11:27 on Saturday night, Damond called police to report a possible sexual assault, according to a 911 transcript obtained by the Star Tribune Wednesday.
“I’m not sure if she’s having sex or being raped,” Damond told the operator. After giving her address, Damond continued: “I think she just yelled out ‘help,’ but it’s difficult the sound has been going on for a while, but I think, I don’t think she’s enjoying it.”
“OK,” said the operator, “I’ve already got an officer on the way.”
About eight minutes later, Damond called 911 again to make sure they got her address right. She repeated the report of hearing a woman screaming, and the operator assured her the officers were en route.
“Thank you,” said Damond.
Moments later, one of those officers would fatally shoot her.
Wow. This just does not make sense.
And now the controversy is swirling with not enough answers. They will hopefully come. A family in Minnesota and Australia and several communities are devastated. The family and community of the officer is devastated. The Somali community in Minneapolis has had problems with violence, intolerance and gun violence. This just can’t help.
Several letters to the editor in today’s Star Tribune deserve to be read and re-read about the shooting of Justine Damond. Here is the first:
Thirty-some years ago, we were the owners of the house Justine Damond lived in when she was killed. One New Year’s Eve we let our 13-year-old son baby-sit his younger brother and sister for the first time while we celebrated less than a mile away. We’d been calling hourly to see how things were going when right after midnight our son answered and said, “Was it OK that I answered the door for the police?” My heart stopped momentarily. It turned out that the elderly woman across the alley had her back door kicked in by two men who then robbed her, and the police were canvassing to see if anyone had heard anything.
We rushed home, not wanting to leave our kids home alone with possible bad guys in the neighborhood. Then, it was the bad guys people were afraid of, not the police.
Something has gone terribly wrong. Then, as now, the Fulton neighborhood was a pretty quiet, fairly upscale area with some property crimes but not much else. But, other things have changed significantly. There has been a continual push in the U.S. for more access to guns and gun freedoms like conceal-and-carry. It is no wonder most police are fearful when they never know who might pull out a gun. Their training has conditioned them to always believe the worst of everyone and every situation. Tensions and fear are high when someone always expects the worst. But that fear is no excuse or defense for the increasingly common case of police officers who are trigger-happy.
Today, unfortunately, I’d be as afraid of having my young (white) son answer the door for the police as I would be of the bad guys. We citizens have to demand better.
And here is the second:
Two immigrants came to the United States searching for the American dream. One came to heal; the other, to protect. Now due to the fear and violence surrounding firearms, both have realized the American nightmare.
State Sen. Steve Cwodzinski, DFL-Eden Prairie
These shootings reveal tensions between law enforcement and communities of color. They also reveal the need for better training for officers. And the “elephant in the room” that gets swept under the rug is that there are just too many guns around in our country and that is leading to too many gun deaths.
This is of international interest because Justine Damond was Australian. They just can’t wrap their heads around the American gun culture. I’m with them. This article calls the shooting the “American Nightmare”. From the article:
In Justine Damond’s native country, news of the meditation teacher’s baffling death has dominated the airwaves, newspapers and websites for days, feeding into Australians’ long-held fears about America’s notorious culture of gun violence.
“The country is infested with possibly more guns than people,” said Philip Alpers, a gun policy analyst with the University of Sydney who has studied the stark differences in gun laws between the nations. “We see America as a very risky place in terms of gun violence — and so does the rest of the world.”
While police officers carry guns in Australia, deadly shootings by police are exceedingly rare; only a handful are reported each year, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology. And though the U.S. doesn’t keep a national database of deadly police-involved shootings, even incomplete statistics show there are hundreds every year.
America’s reluctance to strengthen its gun regulations and its seemingly endless stream of shooting deaths have long been a source of confusion and concern in Australia, which instituted tough gun ownership laws in 1996 following a deadly mass shooting. At the time, then-Prime Minister John Howard — a conservative — warned Australians against following America’s lead on gun control, saying: “We have an opportunity in this country not to go down the American path.”
The “American path”….
I have a theory. Ever since conceal carry weapons permits laws have passed, there are more people on the streets armed with guns. It is truly difficult to know when someone could be a danger to themselves or others and it’s also difficult to sift out who could be a “good guy” with a gun or a “bad guy” with a gun. Officers often respond with fear and excess violence when fearing for their own lives. Too often, innocent citizens are killed by officers and then the officers are found to be not guilty because they were justified out of fear for their own safety.
We have a circular problem. More guns carried by citizens means officers need more guns. When officers have more guns and citizens have more guns everyone feels unsafe.
And when the NRA ramps up that fear of others as they have in the last few weeks, we have volatility in our public interactions. The most recent NRA TV screed came close to urging violence against the media. Our very own President has verbally attacked many media sources calling them fake news and lying about their motives. He skirted suggesting violence against the press ( from the article above) which fits right in with what the NRA is doing. When a free press is vulnerable to attack, physical or verbal, our democracy is at risk. As I wrote in my last post, when protesters are not safe from the ramped up encouragement of violence against them by the “guys with the guns”.
By the way, does anyone think that this NRA is representing average gun owners? This is an extremist organization seemingly representing the right wing of the Republican party. Is this even about guns any more? Or is it a not so subtle way for the guys with the guns to think about their enemies as those who are not like them or those who criticize them and their leaders?
None of this is OK. None of this is good for democracy. None of this is making us safer from violence and gun violence. No one is safe until everyone is safe is the slogan of the Women’s March from the NRA to the DOJ last week-end said. Someone picked a great slogan to describe the “American nightmare.”
There needs to be common sense when it comes to guns. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill other people. And they do that every day in the hands of officers and citizens alike.
More guns are not making us safer. We are being sucked into the vortex of a place that we must get out of before it destroys us. The path is going towards more senseless gun deaths and injuries and leaves many families living the American nightmare.
Time to wake up.