Here's why no charges have been filed in Justine Damond's shooting

The Hennepin County attorney was confronted by a group of activists with questions.
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As 2017 winds down, prosecutors have not announced whether criminal charges will be filed against Mohamed Noor, the Minneapolis police officer who shot Justine Damond on July 15.

Why? There isn't enough evidence to file charges, at least not yet. 

That's what Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told members of the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar in a video posted to Facebook

"I've gotta have the evidence. And I don't have it yet," Freeman can be heard saying after being confronted by the group. "And let me just say, it's not my fault. ... It's on the [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension]. They don't work for me. They haven't done their job."

In a statement, the BCA called the "collaboration between prosecutors and investigators" a "typical part of the review process," but added they can't say more due to state law. GoMN asked the Hennepin County Attorney's Office for comment, but has not heard back. 

Let's hit pause for a second to go over the investigative and charging process.

How an investigation and charges work

After a police shooting, investigators – in this case, the BCA – gather as much information as possible. Once investigators believe they have a full file, it's sent to the county attorney.

The county attorney reviews it, and determines whether or not there's enough evidence to warrant possible criminal charges. 

Historically in police shootings, that decision was left up to secretive grand juries, but Freeman has opted to make the decision himself from now on.

Where things stand in the Damond case

The BCA turned its findings in the Damond shooting over to the county attorney's office on Sept. 12. Freeman at the time noted he could request more information from BCA investigators, but hoped to have a decision by the end of 2017.

However, his comments on the video suggest it could take longer. 

Freeman explained he has to prove the circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. Did Noor fear for his life when he pulled the trigger, for example.

"But I can't. He won't answer my questions and he doesn't have to," Freeman said. (Remember, Noor didn't speak with investigators.) 

He added: "I can't talk to [Damond] because she's gone, and the other cop gave us s--t."

What evidence can Freeman and his team of prosecutors use?

– Noor and the other officer in the car did not have their body cameras on, even though the police chief said should have

– The BCA found no weapon on or near Damond, who'd called 911 – twice – after thinking she heard someone being raped.

– Warrants from the investigation found there was a loud noise and that someone slapped the car just before Noor fired his gun. What or who caused those is unclear.

– A possible witness – who was biking nearby before the shooting, and stopped to watch officers give aid after – did speak with investigators.

– As Freeman said in the video, he's been left to analyze the angles of the shot, gun residue, and use of force practices.

– Noor was in the passenger seat at the time, and fired over his partner and out the driver's side window, striking Damond, the BCA said. She died of a gunshot to the abdomen

– "Can I prove that the cop shot her? I could have done that the first day," Freeman said in the video, while explaining it's not that simple.

'Why is it so difficult when it's a police officer?'

The people talking with Freeman pushed back, and argued that's the point of a trial – put the charges and evidence out there, and let jurors decide whether someone is guilty or not.

"Before I charge somebody, I have to have sufficient admissible evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, "Freeman responded, adding: "Would you like me to charge your friend just because I think maybe he did it, and let a jury decide?"

"You do it to innocent poor people all the time Mike, and it happens everyday, so why is it so difficult when it’s a police officer?" one of the men replied.

Said Freeman: "I have to follow the law."

The conversation (one supporter wrote a transcript here) also touches on the Jamar Clark case (in which charges weren't filed) and the court system. Freeman, referencing the Damond case agains, said he's not going to "do a knee-jerk charge and say, let the jury decide." 

"No no. I have to know what happened before I can charge, and that’s when I’m doing my job. And thanks for having some patience. Trust me – nobody wants it done for Christmas more than me. That’s the big present I’d like to see under the Christmas tree. So thanks for listening."

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