Minneapolis Police Union President Bob Kroll said he filed a grievance Thursday on behalf of recently-fired city police Officer Mohamed Noor, who faces third-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Damond.
“It’s an extremely unusual situation,” Kroll said over the phone. “I’ve never encountered anything like it before.”
Kroll and Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder said Noor is the first city officer they’re aware of to be charged with murder for killing someone in the line of duty. Both men indicated he may also be the first black officer in the city who has fatally shot a white woman. Mic was unable to independently verify that Kroll’s grievance had indeed been filed.
Noor is Somali-American. On Wednesday, the Somali-American Police Association said the charges behind his firing were “baseless and politically motivated, if not racially motivated as well.”
“I don’t think if the victim would have been black and the cop would have been white things would have been the same,” Minneapolis Somali community activist Omar Jamal told CBS News’ WCCO TV on Thursday.
Elder couldn’t say for certain whether his department has ever had a black officer involved in a white civilian’s homicide.
“I have absolutely no idea,” he said over the phone on Friday.
Damond’s was the latest in a string of high-profile police shooting deaths in the Twins Cities metropolitan region of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. In 2017, former St. Anthony, Minnesota, Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is Latino, was acquitted of manslaughter charges in the July 2016 shooting death of 32-year-old Philando Castile, a black man, in nearby Falcon Heights, Minnesota. In May 2015, a grand jury declined to indict the white Minneapolis officers who fatally shot a 24-year-old black man named Marcus Golden.
And in November of the same year, Minneapolis Police fatally shot Jamar Clark in the head. At the time, Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman vowed not to use a grand jury in Clark’s case or any other alleged fatal police misconduct cases going forward. A year later, however, he declined to charge the white officers involved in Clark’s shooting. He said evidence showed that Clark had grabbed one of the officers’ guns during a struggle when they tried to subdue him at the scene of a domestic dispute in which Clark was allegedly involved.
In Noor’s shooting of Damond, Freeman tried to keep his promise to circumvent the grand jury process earlier this year. But he was forced to convene a grand jury anyway, he said, when Minneapolis officers refused to cooperate with his investigation.
Black Lives Matter Minnesota and St. Paul chapters activist Monique Cullars-Doty said she’s conflicted by the unequal treatment Noor is receiving compared to white cops who kill black men, like her nephew, Marcus Golden.
“I do have mixed emotions about it because technically he should be able to say the same thing that every other cop out there says, which is, ‘I feared for my life,’” Cullars-Doty said during a recent phone interview. “It took a blonde- haired, blue-eyed white woman from another country for this to happen.”
Race aside, Cullars-Doty and other local BLM activists are standing in support of Damond, her family, and her neighbors who joined her in forming the activist group Justice for Justine after Damond was killed by Noor.
Damond’s white neighbors have supported the BLM cause since Justine’s homicide, participating in demonstrations around the city. The groups are hosting a “We Want What She Got” rally Friday night to call for equal justice for other alleged police brutality victims, multiple BLM activists said.
“I do believe he should be prosecuted,” Cullars-Doty said of Noor. “There is no reason for him to have shot her. He shot somebody who didn’t deserve to be shot at all. There absolutely should be some charges.”
Kroll, the union president — who previously has been accused of being a member of a white supremacist motorcycle gang — disagrees. Unions like the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis that he leads have been some of the staunchest and most vocal supporters of cops who kill unarmed black men in recent years. Kroll’s union is standing behind Noor and paying for his legal fees.
“He’s our member. He pays dues. We are supportive of him,” he said.
Kroll declined to say whether he feels Noor’s treatment has anything to do with race.
“[County Attorney] Mike Freeman is the only one that can answer that,” he said. “He was terminated without the ordinary steps in the process involved. That’s enough for me to file a grievance.”
Damond, 40, was an Australian immigrant who lived in the upper-middle class South Minneapolis neighborhood known as Fulton with her American fiance, Don Damond. She was home alone around 11:30 p.m. on July 15, 2017, when she heard strange noises coming from outside and called 911 to report a possible sexual assault.
Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, responded to the call. Noor was sitting in the passenger seat of their squad car when Harrity, who was driving, pulled into an alley near Damond’s dwelling.
Damond went outside in her pajamas. When she approached the police cruiser’s driver side window and tried to get the officers’ attention, she startled Noor. The officer drew his gun and opened fire, killing her.