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World & Nation

Minneapolis police chief resigns six days after an officer kills an unarmed Australian woman

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau speaks to the media July 20, 2017, at the Emergency Operation
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau speaks to the media on Thursday, July 20, 2017, at the Emergency Operations Training Facility in Minneapolis.
(Aaron Lavinsky / TNS)

Less than a week after the Minneapolis police shooting of an unarmed Australian woman, the city’s chief has resigned amid uproar that saw international scrutiny and protests.

Chief Janee Harteau said Friday she left her post after the mayor asked her to step down.

“Last Saturday’s tragedy, as well as some other incidents, have caused me to engage in deep reflection,” Harteau said in a statement. “The recent incidents do not reflect the training and procedures we’ve developed as a department. I’ve decided I am willing to step aside to let a fresh set of leadership eyes see what more can be done for the MPD to be the very best it can be.”

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a statement that she had “lost confidence in the chief’s ability to lead us further.” It was “clear that she has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis as well,” the mayor said.

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Justine Damond, 40, was shot last Saturday after she called 911 to report a suspected rape near her residence. Two officers, Matthew Harrity and Mohamed Noor, responded to the call.

Noor shot Damond in the abdomen through an open squad car window as she approached the cruiser. She died at the scene.

Officials have not explained why Noor fired at Damond, and the officer has refused to speak with state investigators.

Justine Damond, of Sydney, Australia, was fatally shot by police in Minneapolis on July 15.
Justine Damond, of Sydney, Australia, was fatally shot by police in Minneapolis on July 15.
(Stephen Govel / Associated Press)

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The death led to protests in Minneapolis and outrage in Australia, where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull demanded answers for what he called a “shocking” and “inexplicable” death.

The killing also drew comparisons to other police shootings of unarmed people in the U.S.

In many cases that have been the focus of protests in other cities, the officers have been white and people shot have been racial minorities. But in this instance, Damond was white and the officer who shot her is Somali American.

Her death was the most recent of a series of high-profile incidents that have led to increased criticism of the Minneapolis Police Department. Civil rights groups and activists had called for Harteau’s ouster in 2015 amid weeks of protests after the police shooting death of Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man.

Some local activists expressed frustration that the chief did not resign earlier.

“Justine’s death was not an isolated incident,” said Nekima Levy-Pounds, a mayoral candidate and past president of the local chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. “Her death is a byproduct of a violent, militarized police culture that operates without sufficient checks and balances and accountability.

“Every layer of our system of government has rubber-stamped and reinforced police culture, leaving Minneapolis residents both vulnerable and fearful, and correct in believing that justice is elusive when one’s rights have been violated,” she said.

On social media, activists associated with the Black Lives Matter movement criticized Friday’s swift action against the chief compared with reaction to other police shootings when those killed have been racial minorities.

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“It is clear to everyone that Chief Harteau needed to resign after the Minneapolis Police killed Jamar Clark and after the police’s response to the protesters,” DeRay Mckesson, a leader in the movement, said in an interview. “It wasn’t until the police killed a white woman, Justine Damond, that her tenure became politically untenable.”

Hodges, who is up for reelection in September and has faced criticism over policing, said Friday she would nominate current Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo as the new police chief.

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UPDATES:

7:30 p.m.: This article was updated with staff reporting on reaction to the shooting and background on the Minneapolis Police Department.

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This article was originally published at 4:25 p.m.


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