Family, police react to charges in Justin Damond killing

Minneapolis' police chief and Mayor Jacob Frey are among those who have spoken.
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The charges against Mohamed Noor mark the latest step in an heartbreaking, eight-month long journey for those who knew and loved Justine Damond.

The 40-year-old Australian native was shot dead by the Minneapolis police officer on July 15, sparking an intensive investigation that led to Tuesday's charges of 3rd degree murder and 2nd degree manslaughter.

It's a move that was welcomed by Damond's loved ones after the announcement was made.

Her family, including fiance Don Damond and father, John Ruszczyk, provided a statement in which they described the charges as "one step toward justice for this iniquitous act."

"We remain hopeful that a strong case will be presented by the prosecutor, backed by verified and detailed forensic evidence, and that this will lead to a conviction. No charges can bring our Justine back. However, justice demands accountability for those responsible for recklessly killing the fellow citizens they are sworn to protect, and today's actions reflect that."

Police chief takes responsibility

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman admitted that he felt it was necessary to turn to a grand jury to compel testimony under oath from some Minneapolis officers that proved uncooperative during the investigation.

But the decision to charge Noor was his alone, he said.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who was the acting chief in charge the night Damond died (former police chief Janee Harteau was out of the city at the time), said the responsibility for the actions of the city's police officers fall on him.

"If there are criticisms or condemnations of the MPD, they should be directed at me," he said.

"I will learn from this tragedy and I will redouble our department’s efforts to build trust, hold ourselves accountable not only to those we serve, but to each other as well, and strive to deliver the most professional service possible in each and every contact we have."

He then added: "This tragic event happened on my watch as Acting Chief. Today, as Chief of Police, I am ultimately responsible for the conduct of the men and women who wear this uniform and badge. Sanctity of life, to include the protection of life, is the cornerstone of our fundamental duties as peace officers."

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who was elected after Damond's death, echoed Arradondo's words about building trust, saying trust between police "and the communities they serve – especially communities of color – was fractured long before last July."

As well as saying the city stands "firmly with Justine's family," he also said it stands with the Somali community, which has been targeted because of Officer Noor's heritage.

'Depraved' is the key term in Noor case

You might have seen a lot of reports of the word "depraved" in the last 24 hours if you've been reading about the charges against Noor.

That's because 3rd degree murder under Minnesota law is defined as being committed when someone causes the death of another "by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life."

The word "depraved" could prove a crucial point of contention when it comes to the courtroom, with Hennepin County prosecutors having to prove that Noor's actions fit this description in a court of law.

But as the Star Tribune reports, there's no legal definition for what constitutes a "depraved mind" in Minnesota. Attorney Joe Friedberg told the newspaper the 3rd degree murder charge could be used as a negotiating tactic to get Noor to plead guilty of 2nd degree manslaughter.

The fact that his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, himself took out his weapon prior to the shooting could help Noor's argument that he feared for his life.

FOX 9 notes that "depraved mind" has been defined in Maryland, where it was described as "a knowingly dangerous act with reckless and wanton unconcern and indifference as to whether anyone is harmed or not."

It was used to charge the officer with the 3rd degree murder of Freddie Gray in the back of a police van. He was found not guilty.

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