Freeman: Uncooperative officers left 'no choice' but to use grand jury

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman blasted a number of police officers who he said did not cooperate with the investigation into their counterpart Mohamed Noor, who was charged Tuesday with the shooting death of Justine Damond last July in south Minneapolis. 

Those officers left him "no choice" but to convene a grand jury and issue subpoenas, forcing them to testify under oath as an investigative tool while still retaining decision-making power over the case.

The announcement came nearly two years after Freeman announced he would no longer be using grand juries to decide cases involving officer-involved shootings. It was the secrecy of the grand jury proceedings, he said, that make it difficult for the public to know what goes into a decision and unclear who is accountable for making that decision.

"Let me be clear," Freeman said to a crowd of reporters Tuesday, pounding the podium for emphasis. "The decision to charge Officer Noor is my decision and mine alone."

The press conference was the culmination of nearly eight months of work for Freeman's office and the beginning of a criminal case that had already taken up hundreds--if not thousands--of manhours. It took a much longer period of time to make a charging decision than past police shootings, largely because of the officers who refused to speak with Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators.

Freeman apologized in December for comments made at a holiday party in which he criticized those investigators, saying they didn't work for him and that they had failed to do their jobs correctly. Tuesday, however, he struck a more conciliatory tone.

"The mistake of December has been resolved by all the hard work we've done since then," he said. "We will not stop getting the evidence even if we have to ruffle some feathers."

During a question-and-answer portion of Tuesday's press conference Freeman claimed the Police Officers' Federation, the law enforcement union for the city, advised the officers involved not to speak with BCA investigators. According to a statement from POFM President Bob Kroll, that wasn't the case.

"The Federation takes great exception to this irresponsible statement," the statement reads. "The Federation's duty is to protect the rights of its members and fully advise them of what their rights are. No opinions were offered on what action to take with any of our members. For Mr. Freeman to say this, he is either lying or perpetuating a lie told to him."

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who took over the department after then-Chief Janee Harteau was fired in the aftermath of Damond's shooting, said at another press conference Tuesday that he expects his officers to cooperate with outside investigations into the department, though they will not be disciplined for refusing voluntary interviews with the BCA.

"I expect that my personnel cooperate with any investigation," he said. "Especially from the County Attorney’s Office."

Noor was booked into the Hennepin County Jail Tuesday morning on second degree manslaughter charges and the relatively uncommon charge of third degree murder for "perpetrating an eminently dangerous act and evincing a depraved mind." Noor's attorney, Tom Plunkett, says Noor turned himself in within an hour of being notified of his arrest warrant. He did not offer any other comment.