MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – A former Minnesota police officer on trial for killing an unarmed Australian woman broke his silence and testified that he fired his gun “to stop the threat” when she appeared at the window of his squad car.
Mohamed Noor, 33, told jurors in his murder trial that he had no other choices in a “split-second decision” to shoot Justine Ruszczyk Damond in order to protect his partner.
Noor, a former officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, had not spoken about the fatal incident until Thursday afternoon when he began testimony about the moments leading up to the shooting death of Damond and the subsequent events.
Damond was killed on July 15, 2017, when she approached Noor’s squad car after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home 13 minutes before her death. At the time of her death, Damond was engaged to be married and worked as a life coach. The 40-year-old dual Australian-American citizen had been living in the U.S. for more than two years.
Noor, a Somali-American, was ultimately charged with second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense.
His testimony continued into Friday morning and lasted 45 minutes, with cross-examination led by prosecutor Amy Sweasy.
No footage was taken by the officers’ body-worn cameras until after the shooting had happened. Sweasy poked at the fact that Noor had consistently turned on his body-worn camera when he had responded to other calls that evening, including one of an emotionally disturbed 84-year-old woman.
In his defense of not turning on his body camera, Noor explained that when he and his partner Matthew Harrity responded to Damond’s 911 call about her report of a woman screaming behind the alley, he did not consider it to be a serious situation and said it was a “typical” call.
He also testified he did not know that Damond had called the dispatcher a second time requesting an estimated time of arrival, which he only learned after the shooting.
Noor, who was dressed in a dark suit, remained calm and collected while Sweasy, in an unyielding manner, pressed him on what she called inconsistencies in his testimony.
For example, Noor repeatedly told jurors Thursday that he did not go to the scene with his attorneys and a private investigator, but said Friday morning he misunderstood Sweasy’s questions about that.
Noor told jurors he saw a woman at the window of the patrol car raising her right arm. He agreed that the woman had blonde hair and was wearing a pink shirt. Sweasy asked him if he had seen a weapon, and he said he had not.
On the defense, Noor’s attorney Tom Plunkett asked him to list the circumstances that made him act the way he did when Damond approached the squad car.
Noor explained that it was the bicyclist who stopped and did not let them pass, the “loud bang” on the squad car, a perceived threat on the driver’s side as Damond was raising her right arm, and Harrity’s reaction when Damond approached the car.
Plunkett asked Noor what he thought would have happened if he had not fired his gun.
“My partner would have been killed,” Noor responded.
The former police officer testified Thursday that his “intent was to stop the threat and save my partner’s life.”