BCA: Officer Heard 'Loud Noise' Before Fatal Shot was Fired

July 19, 2017 09:12 AM

The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Tuesday said it has interviewed one of the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Justine Damond, but that the officer who fired the fatal shot has declined to be interviewed.

The BCA says it interviewed Officer Matthew Harrity Tuesday. An attorney for Officer Mohamed Noor, the shooter, would not say if or when an interview with Noor would be possible, a BCA release says.


RELATED: Police Attorney: Officers Involved in Fatal Shooting Not Required to Provide Statements to BCA

The BCA says its preliminary investigation indicates Harrity was driving the squad south in the alley between Washburn and Xerxes avenues with the lights off in search of a suspect in a possible assault that was called in by a woman later identified as Damond.

Harrity told investigators that as the vehicle reached 51st Street, he was startled by a loud sound near the squad, followed immediately by Damond approaching the driver's side window. Harrity told investigators Noor, seated in the passenger seat, then discharged his weapon, the bullet from which struck Damond through the open driver's side window.

Harrity said the officers immediately got out of the car and began rendering first aid until medical personnel arrived. 

The BCA's release also says the agency is looking to speak with an 18- to 25-year-old male whom the officers had seen bicycling eastbound on West 51st Street immediately before the shooting. Harrity told investigators the bicyclist stopped at the scene and watched as the officers provided medical assistance. 

RELATED: Officer Identified as Firing Fatal Shot Has 3 Complaints on File, City Records Show

The release says authorities recovered a cell phone near the victim. No weapons were recovered at the scene. The BCA says investigators are not aware of any audio or video of the shooting.

Meanwhile, Casper Hill, a spokesman for the City of Minneapolis, said in an email the city has begun preparing a transcript of the 911 call Damond placed to which officers Noor and Harrity had responded before she was killed.

Hill said the state Department of Public Safety on Tuesday afternoon advised city officials Damond's 911 call was not being classified by the BCA as criminal investigative data, and that a release of the transcript would not interfere with its investigation. 

Hill said the transcript would first be given to Damond's fiancé, Don Damond, before the city releases it to the public and media. 

In its release the agency officially identified the two officers, who previously had been identified by sources close to the incident. 

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges also called for the bicyclist to come forward during a press conference at City Hall Tuesday night.

Hodges urged the bicyclist to call the phone number provided by the BCA in its release, which she repeated at the conference: 651-793-7000.

"Trust me, the BCA is interested in talking with you about anything you saw that night."

She also encouraged Noor to submit to an interview with investigators. 

"We cannot compel Officer Noor to make a statement. I wish I could," Hodges said. "I wish that he would make a statement, is what I want to say.

"He has a story to tell that no one else can tell."

Assistant Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said Police Chief Janee Harteau has been taking previously scheduled personal time, but that he has been updating her personally since the shooting.

Arradondo said Harteau has asked for an expedited internal affairs use of force review in an effort to recognize the public's right to know "as much as possible as soon as possible." He cautioned, however, that much of the data needed for that review is currently in the BCA's hands.

The assistant chief says a police "quality assurance officer" will begin a review of how frequently officers turn on their body cameras. The department is eight months into its body cam program. 

The city's Office of Police Conduct Review has made an inquiry into the matter, but will not be able to move forward with an investigation until the BCA completes its assessment, Arradondo said. 


Michael Oakes

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