By Eric M. Johnson
(Reuters) – Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau resigned on Friday at the request of the city’s mayor, who said that she and the community had lost confidence in Harteau following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Australian woman.
The death of Sydney native Justine Damond, 40, from a single gunshot wound to the abdomen fired through the open window of a police patrol car, has outraged her family members and the Australian public. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called it “shocking” and “inexplicable.”
Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a written statement that she and Harteau agreed on Friday that Harteau would step aside.
“I’ve lost confidence in the Chief’s ability to lead us further – and from the many conservations 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 the statement.
A press conference Hodges called to discuss the personnel change was interrupted by a group of protesters calling for her to resign, a witness video posted on YouTube showed.
“We don’t want you as our mayor of Minneapolis anymore,” a male protester in the video yelled as Hodges nodded slowly and tried repeatedly to resume her remarks but was drowned out.
“Your leadership has been very ineffective. Your police department has terrorized us enough,” he said.
Damond, who was living in Minneapolis and engaged to be married, had called police about a possible sexual assault in her neighborhood just before midnight on Saturday. She was shot as she approached the driver’s side of Mohamed Noor’s and Matthew Harrity’s patrol car.
Harteau’s resignation came a day after she told reporters during her first news conference following Damond’s death that the shooting violated department training and procedures and that the victim “didn’t have to die.”
“Last Saturday’s tragedy, as well as some other recent incidents, have caused me to engage in deep reflection,” she said in a statement. “Despite the MPD’s many accomplishments under my leadership over these years and my love for the city, I have to put the communities we serve first.”
According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Harrity told investigators that Damond approached the squad car immediately after he was startled by a loud noise and that Noor, who was in the passenger seat, fired his weapon through the open driver’s-side window, striking Damond.
Noor has refused to be interviewed by the agency, which is conducting the investigation.
The police department said on Friday that bureau investigators had interviewed a person who was bicycling in the area immediately before the shooting and watched as the officers provided medical assistance to Damond. No further details were provided.
Hodges said Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo would become police chief, and the department’s website on Friday evening had been updated to reflect it.
Harteau, a 30-year veteran of the department, was the first woman to lead it and is also openly gay. She was criticized for the department’s handling of the fatal 2015 shooting of 24-year-old black man Jamar Clark, who was unarmed.
The shooting of Clark touched off protests in Minneapolis at a time of fierce national debate over the use of excessive force by police, especially against black people.
Hundreds of people also took to the streets of Minneapolis to protest Damond’s shooting.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler & Shri Navaratnam)