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Damond family retains high-profile attorney from Philando Castile case

By Allen Cone
Justine Damond's family has hired a high-profile attorney who settled another recent police shooting case in the Minneapolis area. Photo courtesy of Justine Damond/Facebook
Justine Damond's family has hired a high-profile attorney who settled another recent police shooting case in the Minneapolis area. Photo courtesy of Justine Damond/Facebook

July 24 (UPI) -- The family of Justine Damond has hired a high-profile attorney -- one who was at the center of another major police shooting case in Minneapolis.

Attorney Bob Bennett was hired last week by the family of Justine Damond, who was shot and killed by Minneapolis Police Department Officer Mohamad Noor earlier this month.

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Damond, 40, had called police to report a possible assault near her home in one of the city's safest neighborhoods. Damond was shot in the abdomen by Noor after he arrived with his partner and her case has made headlines around the world.

"This is an unbelievable situation that a person who called 911 is shot in her pajamas," Bennett told WCCO-TV. "She obviously was not armed, she was not a threat to anyone, nor could she have reasonably been perceived to be."

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Bennett is a managing partner with Gaskins Bennett Birrell Schupp.

"I don't know of a civil rights lawyer who wouldn't want to take this case. This is a case that we can hopefully use to effect real change," he said.

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Bennett previously represented the family of Philando Castile, who was shot dead by police last summer during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis area. In June, Bennett won a $3 million settlement with the city of St. Anthony for shooting Castile during a traffic stop.

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Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony police officer who shot Castile, was acquitted of manslaughter.

Bennett's taking on Damond's case came as Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau resigned Friday.

Damond, a veterinarian and life coach, was shot after what the responding officers said was a loud noise.

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"The officers who get scared [easily] should go be accountants," Bennett said. "They shouldn't be peace officers with guns. Because that's how 40-year-old Australian spiritual healers get shot."

Noor's lawyer, Thomas Plunkett, said his client "takes these events very seriously.

"He joined the police force to serve the community and to protect the people he serves," he said. "Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves, and he empathizes with the loss others are experiencing."

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Noor is Somali-American.

Minneapolis City Councilman Abdi Warsame, a Somali leader in the Minneapolis area, said people in his community have been targets of racism -- including online.

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"We have a tragedy at hand, and we have a community that's frightened. That's what I want to highlight and that's the reason we're here," Warsame said to reporters.

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