Gun violence in the US

‘We want institutional change’: Minneapolis police chief resigns after officer shoots dead unarmed Australian woman

Justine Damond, a meditation teacher and life coach, called police after hearing noises she feared might have been those of someone getting raped

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 July, 2017, 10:19am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 July, 2017, 10:23pm

A US police chief resigned on Friday amid an uproar over the death of an unarmed Australian woman who had called to report a possible sexual assault and was shot by a responding officer.

Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau had faced criticism over her handling of the killing of Justine Damond last Saturday night, which ignited an international outcry.

She did not appear before TV cameras until Thursday, saying she had been on vacation at a remote mountain location.

The Midwestern city’s mayor Betsy Hodges said she asked for the chief’s resignation on Friday and Harteau tendered it.

“I’ve lost confidence in the chief’s ability to lead us further. And from the many conversations I’ve had with people around our city, especially this week, it is clear that she has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis as well,” Hodges said in a statement.

In announcing her resignation, Harteau said she wanted to “let a fresh set of leadership eyes see what more can be done” to improve the police department.

Moments later the mayor announced her nomination of assistant police chief Medaria Arradondo as Harteau’s replacement. Arradondo has been the public face of the department during the crisis.

If the moves were meant to quell uproar in the city, they did not appear to work.

We’re not buying this. This is just a cosmetic change and we want institutional change

In an evening news conference the mayor held to speak further about the changes, an angry group of protesters interrupted the mayor within minutes of her taking the podium.

“We’re not buying this,” exclaimed one protester from the podium after the mayor left, having been shouted down by the crowd. “This is just a cosmetic change and we want institutional change.”

The protesters were particularly angry about the lack of body camera footage of the shooting, and complained of a lack of police accountability.

“We don’t want you as the mayor of Minneapolis anymore,” another protester said. “You’re ineffective as a leader.”

There were street protests for a second day in a row on Friday, this time in downtown Minneapolis, following a march on Thursday night on the streets of Damond’s neighbourhood to the south of downtown.

Damond, a 40-year-old meditation teacher and life coach, called police on Saturday night after hearing noises she feared might have been those of someone getting raped.

Responding officer Matthew Harrity had been startled by a loud noise just before Damond approached the police car he was driving, prompting his partner Mohamed Noor to fire the fatal shot, authorities said.

Australian killed in US: she called police to report assault, but cop shot her dead from his patrol car

The state’s Bureau of Criminal Affairs (BCA), the agency investigating the shooting, said on Friday that Noor continued to refuse an interview with authorities. But investigators located and interviewed a witness they had been seeking, the BCA said.

The witness had been bicycling near the scene of the shooting and had stopped to watch officers provide first aid. The BCA did not disclose what the witness told investigators.