MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor has been charged in the shooting death of Justine Damond.
Noor turned himself into the Hennepin County Jail Tuesday. He faces third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and is currently being held on a $500,000 bond.
Damond, 40, was fatally shot on July 15, 2017 after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her south Minneapolis home.
Noor shot the Australian native from inside a squad car shortly after he and his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, arrived on the scene.
According to the criminal complaint, moments before the shooting, Harrity heard a voice and saw an unarmed person outside the squad car.
Harrity said he was startled, pulled out his gun and held it to his ribcage while pointing it downward. He said he feared for his life.
That’s when Harrity said he heard what sounded like a light bulb dropping on the floor and saw a flash. After checking to see if he had been shot, Harrity looked to his right and saw Noor with his right arm extended in his direction. He said he did not see Noor’s gun.
The complaint says Harrity then looked out his window and saw a woman, Damond, putting her hands on a gunshot wound on the left side of her abdomen and say “I’m dying” or “I’m dead.”
Both officers performed CPR on Damond, but she died at the scene.
In an interview with his supervising sergeant, Harrity said they were ready to clear the scene and go to another call when Damond came up “out of nowhere.”
He said Noor and him both got “spooked.”
Hennepin County officials say there is no evidence to suggest that, in that short time frame, Noor “encountered, appreciated, investigated, or confirmed a threat that justified the decision to use deadly force.” Instead, authorities say he recklessly fired his gun from the passenger seat, which is a location where he was less able to see and hear events on the other side of the car.
“What we’re saying in this charge is that Officer Noor did not act reasonably…and abused his authority to use deadly force,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference, adding that Noor’s actions were evidence of a “depraved mind.”
Later Tuesday afternoon, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said Officer Noor was no longer an employee of the department.
Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, released a statement on the charges Tuesday afternoon:
“The loss of Justine Ruszczyk Damond is a tragedy and Officer Noor again personally extends his continued condolences to her family for their loss.
“Based on public comments Mr. Freeman made as far back as six months ago and at a happy hour where he thought he was off the record, it appears he contemplated these charges long before the grand jury investigation he directed was even commenced.
“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.”
Freeman received the case in September, and some in the community voiced concern at the amount of time it was taking for the attorney’s office to reach a decision on filing charges.
At the time, Freeman said he needed more evidence to charge Noor with a crime, though the majority of evidence presented in the criminal complaint came from the grand jury testimony of Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity.
Freeman also said a lack of cooperation from Minneapolis Police officers stalled the investigation, though Minneapolis Police Federation president Bob Kroll pushed back on that claim.
“The Federation’s duty is to protect the rights of its members and fully advise them of what their rights are. No opinions were offered on what action to take with any of our members,” Kroll said in a statement.
Video: Press Conference
A statement was released by John Ruszczyk, Damond’s father, and the Ruszczyk family and Don Damond (the victim’s fiance) and the Damond family:
Justine’s family in Australia and the US applaud today’s decision to criminally charge Officer Noor with Justine’s murder as one step toward justice for this iniquitous act. While we waited over eight months to come to this point, we are pleased with the way a grand jury and County Attorney Mike Freeman appear to have been diligent and thorough in investigating and ultimately determining that these charges are justified. We remain hopeful that a strong case will be presented by the prosecutor, backed by verified and detailed forensic evidence, and that this will lead to a conviction. 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.
Former MPD Chief Janee Harteau also shared her thoughts on the announcement:
If convicted, Noor could face up to 25 years in prison on the murder charge and up to 10 years on the manslaughter charge.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo released statements on the charges Thursday afternoon:
Mayor Jacob Frey:
“While nothing can erase the pain felt for Justine Damond’s loss, today’s decision from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman marks a step forward for Don Damond and Justine’s family, her friends and neighbors, and Minneapolis. It is my hope that the assurance that justice is being pursued in a thorough and transparent way offers a small measure of comfort.
“But as we weigh the impact of the County Attorney’s decision to charge, it is important to remember that trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve — especially communities of color — was fractured long before last July. The events of recent years have tested our city in ways that are new to some, but are all too familiar for many neighborhoods across Minneapolis.
“I will be continuing my work with Chief Medaria Arradondo and city leadership on our agenda centered on accountability and fairness for the Minneapolis Police Department. We will continue advancing a concerted and direct effort to reinforce de-escalation training and eliminate unnecessary use of force, work to make sure body cameras are activated when they need to be activated, provide wellness training so officers are in the right state of mind to make fair and unbiased decisions, and hold officers accountable for their actions through progressive discipline. We are committed to doing this work.
“Tonight, though, we reflect on Justine’s life. We hold the countless people and communities whose lives she touched close in our hearts. We celebrate her life, her spirit, and her devotion to helping others.
“Our city stands firmly with Justine’s family, and hope they find peace in a time of grief. Our city stands firmly with our Somali community and against those leveling blame on our beloved neighbors. Our city stands firmly with those officers committed to improving police-community relations. And our city stands firmly with victims of police shootings. Together we must chart a path forward to prevent these tragedies from happening again.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo:
“To Mr. Don Damond, Mr. John Ruszczyk, Ms. Maryan Heffernan, Mr. Jason Ruszczyk, and Justine’s many other family members, friends, and beloved community here in Minneapolis and in Australia, I want to say I AM SORRY. I know that those three words will not bring Justine back, but I want you to know that I am deeply saddened and truly sorry for her death and for your tragic loss.
“Today Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced his charging decision in regards to the Officer Noor shooting, which caused the death of Ms. Justine Ruszczyk-Damond on July 15th, 2017. Mr. Freeman made this decision after careful review of the evidence; we appreciate his careful consideration and respect his decision that outlines charges of Mohamed Noor with Murder 3rd Degree and Manslaughter 2nd Degree.
“This tragic event happened on my watch as Acting Chief. Today, as Chief of Police, I am ultimately responsible for the conduct of the men and women who wear this uniform and badge. Sanctity of life, to include the protection of life, is the cornerstone of our fundamental duties as peace officers.
“As Chief, I am committed to ensuring that myself, and every member of the MPD, learn from this tragedy. 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.
“I know that the overwhelming majority of the men and women of the MPD are dedicated public servants who are guided by the principles of Procedural Justice; giving community members Voice, and Respect, being Neutral in both our interactions and in our decisions, and building Trust. If there are criticisms or condemnations of the MPD, they should be directed at me. I will learn from this tragedy and I will redouble our department’s efforts to build Trust, hold ourselves Accountable not only to those we serve, but to each other as well, and strive to deliver the most Professional service possible in each and every contact we have. Officer Wellness along with De-Escalation training will continue to be a part of our culture of training and duties.
“My heartfelt thoughts go out to all those who have been impacted by the loss of Justine, and what today’s decision will mean for them.
“Mohamed Noor was hired by the Minneapolis Police Department on March 23rd, 2015, and his end date is March 20th, 2018. At the request of the County Attorney’s Office I delayed any employment related decisions in this matter as to not in any way interfere with the criminal investigation in this case.”