Minnesota governor defends police shooting investigators

Published 11:40 am Sunday, December 17, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton defended the state agency that investigates police shootings after a prosecutor criticized the investigation into the death of an Australian woman who was killed by an officer after she called police to report a possible assault.

Dayton issued a statement Friday saying that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has his “utmost confidence,” the Star Tribune reported . Dayton’s comments came days after Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman was recorded telling activists that investigators “haven’t done their job” in the July 15 shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond and that he doesn’t have evidence yet to decide whether to charge Minneapolis Officer Mohamed Noor.

“The BCA is asked to investigate some of the toughest, most complex cases involving officer-involved shootings,” Dayton said. “I have the utmost confidence in their professionalism, integrity, and thoroughness. Impugning the quality of their investigations is destructive, and detrimental in our efforts to seek and obtain justice.”

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Freeman’s office told The Associated Press on Friday that it is working to complete the investigation as soon as possible. Freeman’s comments Wednesday were made to a group of activists and recorded on video. Freeman previously had said his goal was to have a charging decision before the end of the year.

Damond, a native of Australia who was engaged to be married, was shot and killed after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home. As Damond approached the driver’s side window of the squad car, Noor fired from the passenger seat, striking Damond.

Noor has declined to speak with investigators.

The BCA said in a statement that the agency investigates most police shootings in Minnesota because of “our thorough and professional approach to ensuring the integrity of an investigation.” The bureau said its agents and scientists gather all the facts and evidence to conduct comprehensive investigations, then present those cases to prosecutors for possible charges.

But Bob Bennett, the attorney for Damond’s family, said the agency often accepts an officer’s version of events without challenging it. He said the agency should no longer investigate Damond’s death.

“With the mindset that they have, they’ll never do a good investigation,” he said. “They’ll never find an officer wrong, no matter what he does.”