People are killed. Some by accident. Some by criminals. Some by police. Some by police who are criminals. Some are female. Some are white. Some are in their nightclothes, having called 911, unarmed and talking to an officer driving a cruiser by a cop named Mohammed Noor, with neither body nor squad cameras turned on, by shooting through the driver side door.
Just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Damond, 40, called 911 to report a possible assault occurring in an alley near her home between Washburn and Xerxes avenues S., in the Fulton neighborhood.
Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver’s side door of the responding squad and was talking to the officer, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the case.
Moments later, Noor shot across his partner from the passenger’s seat, killing Damond.
No explanation for the killing has been offered yet, whether because the investigating agency, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, isn’t talking or Noor and his partner have invoked their union contract to conceal information about a killing that would have been sweated out of them had they been anyone but cops.
When some information dribbles out, it would be anticipated that it will be some variation on the Reasonably Scared Cop Rule, with Noor’s partner swearing to it. As there were no other witnesses and no video, there is no one to dispute their story. But there was no gun found. Damond’s cellphone was found.
Damond was an attractive white woman, an Australian, who was “trained as a veterinarian,” which suggests she never made it to actually being a vet, and now worked as a “spiritual healer and meditation coach,” for whatever that’s worth. What she was not is a stone killer with a long rap sheet, the sort of person we might expect to end up on the wrong end of a cop’s gun or whose lifeless body won’t be missed. What she was not is male and black.
We know enough about this killing to provide a blank slate for every conceivable narrative, to use it to further every claim. We have enough facts to feed delusional speculation combined with the latitude of ignorance.
The nutjobs on the alt-right fix on Noor’s being a Muslim, the first Somali-American cop in his precinct. Is this to suggest that Noor was some Muslim terrorist bent on killing a blond? There is nothing to suggest this to be remotely true, but then, blank slates lend themselves to outrageous speculation.
But then, the alternative voices cry that the only reason we know about Damond’s killing, care about it, is because she’s white. Had she been black, no one would care. Will the killing of a white woman be treated as cavalierly as the killing of a black? Bear in mind this happened in Minnesota, where Officer Geronimo Yanez just got away with murdering Philando Castille, Because Damond was white, maybe whites will suddenly realize this isn’t just a black person problem.
Noor, a second-year officer whose identity became public Monday, has retained a lawyer. Attorney Thomas Plunkett said in a statement that Noor “takes these events very seriously.”
“He joined the police force to serve the community and to protect the people he serves,” Plunkett said. “Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves, and he empathizes with the loss others are experiencing.”
It’s always good to know that the cop who killed an unarmed innocent person is empathetic with those who will miss her. In fairness, what else could Plunkett say? As for Noor’s partner, he too was a baby cop.
Sources identified Noor’s partner on the scene, who did not fire any shots, as officer Matthew Harrity, 25, who earned his peace officer’s license last year.
Short of Harrity coming out and calling his partner a lunatic killer, unduly scared, who pulled the trigger without reason and, coincidentally, put Harrity at risk by shooting across him to kill Damond, could have easily ended Harrity’s career, not to mention his life, in his moment of frightened insanity.
But Harrity lived and, once he shakes off the trauma of the muzzle flash, will be put to the test of what to say. His safest bet is to not have a clue why Noor fired, having seen nothing from his vantage point to give rise to fear, but not knowing what Noor saw. Will that be the case? We don’t know now, but will eventually learn what Harrity had to say.
The problem is that there was no objective cause to kill Damond. She was the 911 caller. She was unarmed. There was no information upon which any suspicion of threat could be founded. The problem is that we have almost no information to make sense of any of this.
The problem is that the lack of information, combined with the inflammatory potential of religion, skin color, gender to fill the knowledge gap, will allow the blank slate of this killing to serve every narrative, every cry for “justice” because it can be manipulated to fit someone’s agenda. And the irony is that it may be true, that maybe there are reasons underlying this killing and its aftermath that reflect societal ills, but it is unlikely that it will ever be known, ever be proven. The fevered brow of advocates will drip with their sweat, their eyes filled with the tears of righteous indignation, whether true or not, because they can use this to prove their narrative because there is nothing to prove them wrong.
Whatever resulted in the killing of Justine Damond should not have happened. Her wrongful death is no more, nor less, important than anyone else’s, regardless of identity or job. But because we will never know, and never trust what we’re eventually told, her death will be seized upon as proof by all sides. Her death is wrong, but it’s a blank slate so it will prove everything, because it proves nothing.