Former Minneapolis Cop Found Guilty of Murder in Shooting Death of Unarmed Australian Woman
Justine Ruszczyk Damond was killed in July 2017 after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault. Mohamed Noor said he fired to stop what he thought was a ‘threat.’
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was found guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the 2017 shooting death of an unarmed woman who called police to report a possible crime.
The officer—who fired one shot that killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia—was found not guilty of the most serious charge against him, second-degree murder.
The Hennepin County jury reached their verdict in two days, a quick conclusion after a highly publicized three-week trial to determine whether Noor, 33, was justified in his use of deadly force when he fatally shot Damond behind her home a month before her wedding.
Noor, who was emotionless as the verdict was read Tuesday, now faces life in prison.
At trial, prosecutors said Damond called police on July 15, 2017 to report a possible sexual assault after hearing a woman’s scream in the alleyway behind her home.
When police arrived, the yoga teacher and life coach, who had just moved to Minneapolis to live with her soon-to-be husband, approached the squad car on the driver’s side. Noor, sitting in the passenger seat, pulled out his gun and shot Damond in the stomach as she stood outside his partner’s window.
The former officer’s defense attorneys argued that Noor only fired his weapon to protect his “terrified partner,” Matthew Harrity, who said he heard a thump on their squad car and saw a figure “raising an arm” by the driver’s side window.
During her closing argument on Monday, prosecutor Amy Sweasy insisted there was “no conclusive proof” Damond “ever touched that car.”
Noor, who refused to speak to investigators or publicly comment on the incident, took the stand to testify in his own defense last week, arguing that it was his partner’s terrified expression and the surprising sight of a blonde woman raising her arm outside his partner’s window that made him jump into action. He said Harrity was having trouble removing his gun from his holster.
“There was a threat, and my intention was to stop the threat,” he said last week. “I fired once, and then the threat took a couple steps back.”
Harrity testified last week that he’d heard the woman “murmur” as she approached their vehicle.
“I had some weird feeling to my left side that I had to look over,” Harrity testified, adding that he immediately went for his firearm. “A silhouette of something.”
Under cross-examination, Noore admitted that the Australian native did not look dangerous.
“If I knew this would happen, I would never have become a cop,” he said at the end of his testimony.
Thomas Plunkett, Noor’s defense attorney, said in his closing argument on Monday that the incident was “a tragedy” but “not a crime."
“Mr. Noor acted as he was trained. He acted as a reasonable police officer,” he said.
Noor, who was handcuffed and immediately taken into custody after the verdict was announced, will be sentenced on June 7. He is the first police officer in Minnesota to be convicted of an on-duty shooting.