Two police shootings were in the news over the weekend, one in Minnesota and one a profile of a man killed by police in Massachusetts last week.
Justine Damond called police late Saturday night to report what she thought was a sexual assault occurring near the home she shared with her fiancé. But shortly after two officers arrived in her upscale Minneapolis neighborhood to investigate, the call turned deadly when one of the officers shot Damond.
It is unclear why the officer opened fire on Damond, a 40-year-old yoga and meditation teacher from Australia who was supposed to wed next month, and her death immediately drew renewed scrutiny of police officers in the Twin Cities area for their use of deadly force — and questions from her relatives and others in the community . . .
Her fiance, Don Damond, said Monday that she was reporting “what she believed was an active sexual assault occurring nearby.”
What happened next remained a mystery on Monday. Neither of the responding officers had turned on their body cameras, and police have not yet said why one of the officers shot her. The squad car camera did not capture the incident, either.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), the state agency investigating the shooting, has said only that “at one point,” one of the officers fired a weapon and struck Justine Damond. No weapons were found at the scene.
From what I can tell, this is the Minneapolis policy on police body cameras:
Under the new plan, sworn officers would be required to turn on the devices during all traffic and suspicious-person stops, car chases and searches, in addition to any use of force.
One would think that they’d be required to turn them on while investigating a report of a sexual assault, but it doesn’t neatly fit into any of those categories. (They did of course use force, but the circumstances of how and why aren’t clear.) In any case, from what we know now, this one looks bad.
The Massachusetts case is another sad tale of what happens when police respond to a mental-health crisis.
As police cars rolled into his pristine suburban neighborhood last Saturday night, past the sprawling Colonials and manicured lawns, and as dozens of officers from across the region surrounded his home, Russell Reeves begged them again and again to back off.
In a bedroom upstairs his son Austin, 26, was distraught over a breakup. He had told his family he needed time alone. With him was his dog and his 9 mm handgun. If you pressure him, if he feels cornered, Reeves said he told the police, this will end with Austin killing himself.
The police listened and nodded and took notes in their notebooks, according to Reeves. And yet, more officers kept coming. Some wore camouflage and carried rifles. They set up bright lights to shine onto the house and drove a military-style vehicle into the backyard. Eventually, they broke seven upstairs windows so a mounted camera could look inside for Austin.
You know how it ends — just as the man’s father predicted. I’ll never understand why anyone would think it’s appropriate to send a SWAT team for someone who is suicidal, much less a SWAT team and a small army of area police officers. The unfortunate lesson from these suicide stories is that if you have a loved one in crisis, call a psychiatrist. Call a suicide prevention hotline. Call a counselor or a minister. But don’t call the police. We really shouldn’t be surprised when the people we mostly pay to detain, arrest and kill turn out to be inept at talking someone down from an emotional breakdown.