Minnesota officer charged with murder in Australian's death

Minnesota officer charged with murder in Australian's death

Cheryl Sanders
March 21, 2018

A United States police officer has been charged with murder and manslaughter over the shooting death of Australian woman Justine Ruszczyk Damond in July a year ago.

Image: Police officer Mohamed Noor fatally shot Justine Damond.

The death of Ms Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, caused an outcry in both the U.S. and Australia.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, planned a press conference to discuss the charges.

"I have to be honest about the fact that justice for one is not justice for all", said Nekima Levy-Pounds, a lawyer and community activist who unsuccessfully ran for Minneapolis mayor. Officer Noor should not have been charged with any crime.

Officer Mohamed Noor, of the Minneapolis Police Department, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of life coach Justine Ruszczyk Damond, according to Hennepin County Jail records.

If convicted, Mr Noor could face up to 25 years in prison on the murder charge, and up to 10 years on the manslaughter charge. His bail is set at $500,000, which is typical for murder suspects.

Noor, who has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, has not spoken publicly about the case.

Freeman said Noor reached across Harrity and shot Damond.

Ms Damond's father, John Ruszcyzk, and her fiance, Don Damond, issued a joint statement on behalf of both families, saying they applauded the decision to charge Mr Noor "as one step toward justice for this iniquitous act".

"Justine Ruszczyk [Damond] had put her hands on the wound on the left side of her abdomen and said "I'm dying" or "I'm dead". "However, justice demands accountability for those responsible for recklessly killing the fellow citizens they are sworn to protect, and today's actions reflect that", it reads.

In his first conversation moments after the shooting, captured in the bodycam footage, Harrity told his supervising sergeant that he and Noor were getting ready to clear to another call when Damond "came up on the side out of nowhere".

Harrity told investigators that while waiting for a bicyclist to pass before going to the other call, he heard a voice and a thump behind him on the squad auto before looking to see a person's head and shoulders about two feet away from the vehicle. It said Harrity was startled, perceived his life was in danger, pulled his gun and held it to his ribcage pointing downward.

Harrity allegedly heard what sounded like a light bulb dropping on to the floor and saw a flash.

Harrity said he saw no weapons and that he had a better vantage point to determine the threat in the driver's seat than Noor would have had in the passenger seat, Freeman said. A squad vehicle containing Noor and police officer Matthew Harrity was dispatched to the address.

The shooting also prompted questions about the training of Noor, a two-year veteran.

Before joining the Minneapolis force, Noor worked in property management and had trained in business and economics. Then-Minneapolis police chief Jamee Harteau resigned after city officials said procedures had been violated and Damond "didn't have to die".

Mr Freeman put together a almost "second-by-second" timeline of the incident on July 15 a year ago.

Current MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo has since made changes to the body camera policy, now requiring body cameras to be on whenever officers are dispatched to any call or self-initiated activity.

Officer Noor was hired by the Minneapolis Police Department on March 23, 2015, and had no prior law enforcement experience.

Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said the union "takes great exception" to Freeman's statement that members did not cooperate in the investigation into Damond's death.

Freeman delayed his decision in December, saying his office needed more time and he did not have enough evidence to charge Noor.

Other reports by iNewsToday