Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor turns himself in on murder, manslaughter charges in Justine Damond killing

By Libor Jany

Star Tribune
March 20, 2018

The Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed south Minneapolis woman was jailed Tuesday on murder and manslaughter charges, eight months after her shooting sparked protests, international outrage and the firing of the city’s police chief.

Soon after the charges became public, Minneapolis police officials said that Mohamed Noor, 32, is no longer with the department, though it was unclear whether he’d been fired or had resigned.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the shooting showed evidence of “a depraved mind” and “culpable negligence,” as the charges are defined, but acknowledged that proving that to a jury is “a daunting task in front of us.”

The charges offered chilling new details of Justine Ruszczyk Damond’s final moments after the shooting, in which she clutched her abdomen and told officers, “I’m dying.”

Noor turned himself in to Hennepin County deputies after a warrant was issued for his arrest Tuesday morning, and was later booked into the county jail in lieu of $500,000 bail. He is expected to make his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon on third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted.

“The facts will show that Officer Noor acted as he has been trained and consistent with established departmental policy. Officer Noor should not have been charged with any crime,” Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said in a statement.

This incident is the third controversial police shooting in the Twin Cities in as many years. Two black men were fatally shot by police officers who were either not charged or acquitted. Noor is Somali and Damond is white.

Damond, 40, a native of Australia, was shot and killed July 15 after calling police to report a possible sexual assault behind her home in south Minneapolis’ Fulton neighborhood. Noor, who joined the department in 2015, was in the passenger seat of a police squad that responded to the call and fired across his partner, Matthew Harrity, striking Damond. Freeman said the decision to charge Noor was his alone, but that he convened the grand jury to help him gather additional evidence.

Freeman told reporters that the case “would’ve been done much quicker” if some of Noor’s fellow officers had agreed to cooperate with his investigators, repeating an earlier assertion that drew a strong rebuke from the police union. Freeman told reporters Tuesday that the officers’ silence factored into his decision to call a grand jury for the case.

“I’ve never had police officers who weren’t suspects refuse to do their duty and come talk to us,” Freeman said. “These are hard jobs and tough questions. The police patrol, investigate and present us cases — we evaluate those cases and have to make the charging decision and do the prosecution.”

“There’s going to be tension between those two roles but … we will not stop getting all the evidence, even if we have to ruffle some feathers.”

Freeman had previously pledged to end the decades-old practice of using a grand jury in officer-involved shootings, a secretive process that he said lacked transparency and undermined public trust.

Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents the department’s officers, said in a statement that officers were simply advised of their rights, and none was told not to speak with investigators. He said many of the officers called to testify had nothing to do with the case. “No opinions were offered on what action to take with any of our members,” Kroll said. “For Mr. Freeman to say this, he is either lying or perpetuating a lie told to him. This is evidenced by the fact that nothing in the criminal complaint was discovered during grand jury testimony.”

‘We both got spooked’

Charges in the case unsealed Tuesday afternoon are consistent with initial information released by BCA investigators — that Noor’s partner, Harrity, heard a loud sound coming from behind the vehicle moments before Noor fired his gun. Noor has declined to speak with investigators, but Harrity’s interview revealed more details about what happened that night:

Harrity and Noor arrived to the alley behind Damond’s home at S. 50th and Xerxes avenues. Their headlights were off and computer screen dimmed, but Harrity shined the spotlight as they drove slowly down the alley. Harrity removed the safety hood of his holster over his gun before turning into the alley. Harrity later recalled that he heard what he believed to be a dog before reaching the rear of Damond’s home at 5024 Washburn Av., but did not get out of the car to investigate. He did not hear other noises.

As the squad reached the end of the alley at 51st Street, nearly 2 minutes after arriving, Noor entered “Code 4” into the squad computer, indicating that the scene was secure and no assistance was needed.

Harrity later said that he and Noor were at the end of the alley waiting for a bicyclist to pass, just before the shooting. Five to 10 seconds later, Harrity heard a voice, a thump somewhere behind him on the squad car, “and caught a glimpse of a person’s head and shoulders outside his window.”

“Officer Harrity said he was startled and said, ‘Oh sh*t or Oh Jesus.’ ” Fearing his life was in danger, Harrity said that he reached for his gun, unholstered it, and held it to his rib cage while pointing it downward.

He then heard what “sounded like a light bulb dropping on the floor and saw a flash.” After first checking to see whether he had been shot, he looked to his right and saw Noor with his right arm extended toward Harrity but did not see a gun. Turning to look out of the window, he saw Damond, “who put her hands on a gunshot wound on the left side of her abdomen and said ‘I’m dying’ or ‘I’m dead,’ ” charges read.

Both men got out of the squad, Noor still clutching his service weapon. Harrity told him to reholster his gun. Neither officer’s camera was on at the time of the shooting, but both turned them on immediately afterward. Harrity began CPR, with Noor taking over before paramedics arrived at 11:49 p.m. But Damond died at the scene.

The body camera captured a conversation between Harrity and his supervising sergeant, with Harrity saying, “She came up on the side out of nowhere,” and “We both got spooked.” He said Noor “pulled out and fired.” At the time, he did not mention hearing a voice or a noise before the shot was fired, charges said.

“Officer Noor recklessly and intentionally fired his handgun from the passenger seat, a location at which he would have been less able than Officer Harrity to see and hear events on the other side of the squad car,” charges said.

Family reacts

Damond’s death resonated from Minneapolis to her native Australia, horrifying many in the gun-averse country who saw the shooting as an grim example of aggressive police behavior in the U.S.

On Tuesday, Damond’s fianc√©, Don Damond and his family, along with Damond’s father, John Ruszczyk and the Ruszczyk family, applauded the charges in a joint statement, calling it “one step toward justice for this iniquitous act.”

“No charges can bring our Justine back. However, justice demands accountability for those responsible for recklessly killing the fellow citizens they are sworn to protect, and today’s actions reflect that,” the statement read.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who was appointed after former Chief Jane√© Harteau was ousted, announced Noor’s departure from the department in a statement, and emphatically apologized to the Damond family.

“I am committed to ensuring that myself, and every member of the MPD, learn from this tragedy,” he said. “It is imperative that we as a Police Department build trust in those places where it did not exist, and increase the trust in those places where it has been shaken.”

Justin Terrell, executive director of the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, said he was having a hard time reconciling the day’s events, given the criminal justice system’s past mistreatment of minorities. Noor is Somali-American, while Damond was white.

“It is suspicious, to say the least, that the first time the system tries to get it right that it’s a member of our community that is going to have to go through this,” he said, adding that he didn’t necessarily disagree with the charges. “There’s a legacy of racism that black folks are to be feared and controlled, and a legacy of racism that white folks are to be protected.”

Ryan Masterson, a neighbor who lives directly across the alley from where Damond died, stopped to place yellow daisies at the memorial that he’s helped maintain over the past eight months. He applauded Freeman’s decision to charge Noor as the beginning of a long-awaited resolution.

“The family will finally get some answers. There’s a calming peace brought today,” he said. “This is where I wanted to be.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’d have shot the stupid bastard had he fired across me.


by Bob Walsh

Mohamed Noor, 32, formerly the first Somali Muslim police officer in the Minneapolis P.D. is now a former police officer and a prisoner, facing third degree murder and second degree manslaughter charges.

The shooting also cost then-Chief of Police Janee Harteau her job. The new Chief, Medaria Arradondo, announced a change of policy shortly after she took her new job. The new policy requires cops to turn on their body cams when responding to any call for service or traffic stop. Neither Officer Noor nor his partner turned on their body cams.

The original incide happened on July 15 of last year. A grand jury indicted Noor. Noor surrendered and was taken into custody Tuesday. He had been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.

Noor has, as of this writing, not posted the $500,000 bail.


Trey Rusk said...

It's about time.

BarkGrowlBite said...

As you probably noted, the DA said it took so long because the cops refused to cooperate.