Super Bowl security document found on commercial flight

Policemen talk as a Super Bowl promotional banner showing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hangs in an atrium at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. January 29, 2018

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – A U.S. government document outlining plans for responding to a possible biological attack at Sunday’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis was left on a commercial jetliner, CNN reported on Monday, saying one of its employees found the paper in a seat pocket.

Multiple copies of the document, marked “for official use only” and “important for national security,” were found during a flight before the Super Bowl was played.

CNN said on its website it had delayed reporting about its discovery until after the game, at the request of federal officials. It did not say when the document turned up or if the flight in question was going to or coming from Minneapolis. CNN said it could not determine who left the documents on the airplane.

The errant document offered a critique of how officials performed during a simulated release of the infectious disease anthrax in Minneapolis on the day of the Super Bowl. Other sensitive material was also found, CNN said, without further description.

Officials conducted such exercises in July and November, as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch program, according to CNN.

One of the biggest sporting events of the year, the National Football League’s championship Super Bowl is high on the list of potential targets for an attack, security experts have previously said.

The Department of Homeland Security often conducts exercises with state and local governments to guard against national security threats, Tyler Houlton, acting press secretary of the department, said in a statement in response to a Reuters inquiry about the CNN report.

“It is important that operators regularly exercise their capabilities against a wide range of scenarios in order to effectively counter the changing threat environment,” Houlton said.

Houlton declined to confirm whether any sensitive documents related to the Super Bowl were misplaced.

The game went off without a hitch, with the Philadelphia Eagles beating the New England Patriots, 41-33, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

The security plan included bomb-sniffing dogs, a massive police presence, helicopters and a chain-link and concrete fence surrounding the stadium, officials said at a news conference ahead of the game on Wednesday.

In preparation for the game, authorities conducted more than 200 security assessments of critical infrastructure in the Minneapolis area, in addition to training for everything from active shooters to bombings.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)

Probe of fatal Minneapolis school blast focuses on repair work

Damage to the building is seen as emergency personnel work the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adam Bettcher

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – Authorities in Minneapolis were investigating on Thursday whether contractors working at a Christian private school caused a gas explosion that leveled a building, killing two staff members and injuring nine other people.

“Various agencies will be on site this morning to pinpoint exactly how this happened,” the fire department’s assistant chief, Bryan Tyner, said on Thursday. “That investigation will include local, state and federal agencies.”

Minneapolis fire department officials told reporters on Wednesday there were early indications that a gas line was ruptured by contractors working on the campus.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates accidents involving pipelines, said on Thursday it had sent an emergency response team to the site and that its officials were expected to brief reporters later in the day.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has also sent agents and trained canines to join the investigation.

School receptionist Ruth Berg and custodian John Carlson were killed by the blast that tore through the Upper School of the Minnehaha Academy at about 10 a.m. local time on Wednesday, officials said.

“Please keep John’s family, Ruth’s family, those who were injured, and our school community, in your prayers,” the school said on Facebook.

The school described Carlson, 82, as its “biggest cheerleader.” He had graduated from Minnehaha in 1953. Berg, 47, was engaged to be married, local media reported.

One of the injured was in critical condition at a local hospital. He was named as Bryan Duffey, an assistant soccer coach at the school. One other person was listed as satisfactory, while seven were treated and released, the Hennepin County Medical Center said on Thursday.

“We pray for his healing and for the wisdom of the doctors and nurses caring for him at this time,” the school said in a statement on Thursday, referring to Duffey.

Minnehaha Academy was founded in 1913 and teaches more than 800 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade on two campuses, according to its website.

School was not in session on Wednesday due to the summer break. City fire officials said the situation would have been far worse if pupils were in class.

Hundreds of people crowded into a chapel for a prayer service at the academy on Wednesday night.

“We’re going to get through it,” said Minnehaha Academy President Donna Harris, who was injured in the explosion. “We trust God. He is going to do phenomenal work.”

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Diane Craft)

Investigators look for answers in deadly Minneapolis school explosion

Investigators look for answers in deadly Minneapolis school explosion

(Reuters) – Federal and state authorities on Thursday investigated the cause of a gas explosion that ripped through a Christian private school in Minneapolis, killing two people and injured nine.

School receptionist Ruth Berg and staff member John Carlson were killed in the explosion that tore through the Upper School of the Minnehaha Academy at about 10 a.m. local time on Wednesday, the school said.

“Please keep John’s family, Ruth’s family, those who were injured, and our school community, in your prayers,” the school said on Facebook.

The school called Carlson, who graduated from the school in 1953, its “biggest cheerleader.” Carlson, 82, was a custodian and Berg, a 47-year-old receptionist, was engaged to be married, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper reported.

Local officials said it appeared that a ruptured gas line may have led to the explosion, caused by contractors working at the school, local media reported.

The academy said there had been a gas leak and explosion at its school.

The state fire marshal and local fire officials were combing through the rubble on Thursday to determine the exact cause of the explosion, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“The investigators will continue their work and hopefully they will have some answers … in the coming days,” he said.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had agents on the scene, the agency said on Twitter.

According to its website, Minnehaha Academy was founded in 1913 and teaches more than 800 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade on two campuses.

School was not in session due to summer break.

“It would have been dramatically worse … we were pretty lucky in that sense,” Fruetel said.

Of the nine people injured, one was in critical condition and three were in satisfactory condition at Hennepin County Medical Center. Another five were released, the hospital said on Twitter.

Hundreds of people crowded into the campus chapel for a prayer service at the academy’s lower and middle campus on Wednesday night.

“We’re going to get through it,” said Minnehaha Academy President Donna Harris, who was injured in the explosion. “We trust God. He is going to do phenomenal work.”

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Minneapolis orders stricter police body-camera rules after fatal shooting

Justine Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, from Sydney, is seen in this 2015 photo released by Stephen Govel Photography in New York, U.S., on July 17, 2017. Stephen Govel/Stephen Govel Photography/Handout via REUTERS

By Chris Kenning

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Minneapolis officials set stricter police body camera rules on Wednesday, more than a week after officers failed to activate cameras during the fatal police shooting of an Australian woman.

Mayor Betsy Hodges and acting Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the new policy will require officers to turn on cameras anytime they are dispatched to a call or undertake any self-initiated activity. The new policy takes effect on Saturday.

“What good is a camera if it is not being used when it may be needed the most?” said Arradondo, who acknowledged that some officers were not using the cameras frequently enough.

Justine Damond was shot shortly before midnight on July 15 by an officer responding to an emergency call she had placed about a possible assault in her residential neighborhood. The shooting sparked outrage in Australia and Minnesota.

Authorities said officer Mohamed Noor shot the 40-year-old woman through the window as she approached his patrol car. Neither his nor his partner’s body camera were on, nor was dashboard camera activated.

The incident, still under investigation, led Hodges to request the resignation of the city’s police chief.

Minneapolis rolled out cameras late last year with use guidelines calling for officers to activate them “when safe” in a variety of situations including traffic stops, emergency responses, vehicle pursuits, searches and before any use of force.

Arradondo said supervisors were being trained to audit the use of the cameras.

“Many of our officers are using our cameras a lot,” he said. But some officers, he said, are failing to use them enough.

The new policy will still include some exceptions, but will reduce the amount of discretion officers have in using them, officials said.

The technology has been adopted by police departments across the country, increasing sharply after the 2014 police shooting of a teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked demonstrations over police treatment of minorities.

At least 14 people were killed in the United States by officers wearing body cams that were either not turned on or inoperative since 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union said in December. Even so, that was a tiny fraction of police-involved shootings.

Jim Pasco, a senior adviser with the Fraternal Order of Police, said recently that noncompliance among police was not widespread nationally. A Pew Research Center report earlier this year found 66 percent of police supported the use of body cameras.

(Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Minneapolis police chief resigns after Australian woman’s shooting

FILE PHOTO: Minneapolis Chief of Police Janee Harteau takes part in a round table discussion on ways to reduce gun violence during a visit to the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. on February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

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)

Australian woman ‘didn’t have to die’: Minneapolis police chief

Justine Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, from Sydney, is seen in this 2015 photo released by Stephen Govel Photography in New York, U.S., on July 17, 2017. Stephen Govel/Stephen Govel Photography/Handout via REUTERS

By Todd Melby

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – The Minneapolis police chief said on Thursday the fatal shooting of an unarmed Australian woman by a junior police officer violated department training and procedures, and that the victim “didn’t have to die.”

The death of Justine Damond, 40, from a single gunshot wound to the abdomen fired through an open window of a police patrol car, has outraged her relatives and the public in Australia. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called it “shocking” and “inexplicable.”

“Justine didn’t have to die,” Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said in her first news conference about the shooting.

Harteau said she apologized to Damond’s fiance for the loss of life, adding that the action taken by Officer Mohamed Noor, who fired the fatal shot, reflected “one individual’s actions.”

She said the body cameras of the two officers on the scene should have been activated. There is no known video footage of the shooting.

Based on the available information, Harteau said: “The actions in question go against who we are as a department, how we train, and the expectations we have for our officers.”

Damond had called police about a possible sexual assault in her neighborhood just before midnight on Saturday.

Earlier on Thursday, an attorney who represented another police shooting victim in Minnesota said Damond’s family had hired him.

The lawyer, Bob Bennett, reached a nearly $3 million settlement in June for the family of black motorist Philando Castile from the St. Paul, Minnesota, suburb of St. Anthony. Castile was shot and killed in July 2016 during a traffic stop.

The officer who shot Castile was acquitted in a manslaughter trial in June.

“Usually people who call the police in their pajamas are not ambushers, especially spiritual healers and pacifists,” Bennett said of Damond, who owned a meditation and life-coaching company.

“You shouldn’t shoot unarmed people who call the cops,” Bennett said in a telephone interview.

He added that the family would wait until officials complete their investigation before deciding whether to file a civil lawsuit.

Bennett said Damond’s body was still at the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Damond’s family told the Australian Associated Press it wished to bring her body back to Australia for burial. She is from Sydney.

“All we want to do is bring Justine home to Australia to farewell her in her hometown among family and friends,” her family said, according to AAP.

Noor, a Somali-American seen as a role model in the Somali community in Minneapolis, has refused to be interviewed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the shooting. His attorney released a statement in which Noor expressed condolences to the Damond family, but declined to discuss the shooting.

Harteau told reporters she would prefer Noor speak about the incident. “There are questions that need to be answered and he is the only one who has those answers,” she said.

(Reporting by Todd Melby; Additional reporting and writing by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, and Jane Wardell in Sydney; Editing by Diane Craft and Peter Cooney)

Family of Australian woman killed by Minneapolis police hires lawyer -media

Justine Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, from Sydney, is seen in this 2015 photo released by Stephen Govel Photography in New York, U.S., on July 17, 2017. Stephen Govel/Stephen Govel Photography/Handout via REUTERS

By Todd Melby

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – The family of the Australian woman fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer has hired an attorney who represented another police shooting victim in the state, local media reported on Thursday.

Justine Damond’s family hired Bob Bennett, a lawyer who achieved a nearly $3 million settlement for the family of Philando Castile from the St. Paul, Minnesota, suburb of St. Anthony, according to WCCO-TV.

Bennett could not be reached for comment.

Damond’s death from a single gunshot has sparked outrage among family members and the public in both countries. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called it “shocking” and “inexplicable.”

Damond, 40, died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen, fired through an open window of the patrol car, after two police officers responded to a call she made of a possible assault in her neighborhood, said the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the incident.

Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor, who fired the shot that killed Damond, has refused to be interviewed by the agency. His attorney released a statement in which Noor expressed condolences to the Damond family, but declined to discuss the incident.

Bennett, interviewed by the TV station, criticized the Minneapolis police.

“She obviously was not armed,” Bennett said to the television station of Damond. “She was not a threat to anyone, nor could she have reasonably been perceived to be.”

Bennett represented the family of Castile, a black motorist who was killed during a 2016 traffic stop. The officer who shot Castile was acquitted in a manslaughter trial in June.

Damond’s death, the third at the hands of a Minnesota police officer in less than two years, also prompted comments by Michele Bachmann, a former Republican presidential candidate and U.S. representative from Minnesota.

Bachmann, speaking at a Republican hog roast in Waconia, Minnesota, on Wednesday, called Noor an “affirmative-action hire by the hijab-wearing mayor of Minneapolis,” the Star Tribune reported. Noor is Somali-American.

However, Noor’s ethnicity is irrelevant, said Abdirizak Bihi, director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis. “This is racism.

“It’s shifting responsibility to a small, marginalized community rather than the city being responsible,” Bihi added.

Damond’s death remains under investigation. There is no known video footage of the shooting. Both Noor and his partner had their body cameras turned off, investigators reported.

(Reporting by Todd Melby; Editing by David Gregorio)