MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — With the jury now seated, lawyers made their opening statements this morning in the Mohamed Noor trial.
The former Minneapolis Police Officer shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond in July of 2017. She was shot in an alley near Noor’s squad car.READ MORE: No Injuries After Train Derailment In Plymouth
Attorneys’ Opening Statements
On Tuesday, Assistant County Attorney Patrick Lofton began opening statements by showing photos of Ruszczyk Damond, and noted her final words to her fiance Don Damond were “OK, the police are here.” Lofton said, 1 minute and 19 seconds later, she said “I’m dying” after being shot.
Prosecutors say that Ruszczyk Damond was shot in the lower abdomen, through the open window of the squad car. She was holding a gold glitter phone, was barefoot and wearing her pajamas.
In the opening arguments, it was revealed Ruszczyk Damond called police twice. The second time, she was calling to check on the estimated time of arrival for officers. Prosecutors said, less than a half-minute after she hung up with 911, Noor had entered that the the scene was clear, and reported the officers were safe.
The evidence will show the location of the gunshot wound on the victim’s body, WCCO’s Reg Chapman reports. She was 5 feet, 7 inches tall, and the wound was 3 feet, 4 inches from the heel to her lower left abdomen. Defense attorneys appear to be building toward an argument that the gunshot wound was three inches lower than the top of the driver’s side door, and that Noor couldn’t have shot through the door.
The defense team argued evidence will show Noor was justified in his use of force, and that he had to make a split-second decision to protect himself and his partner.
Noor’s lawyers argued when he heard a bump on the door, he heard his partner say “Oh Jesus” and saw him look towards his gun. That’s when Noor pulled his gun. He says Justine appeared out of the dark at the side of the squad car.
The defense team also said that Noor had his ambush training fresh in his mind, having only been on the force for about a year and a half, and that he only wanted to be the best police officer he could be, describing him as “calm and compassionate.”
Another detail that was brought up in the opening arguments so far was that a bicyclist rode by as officers were clearing the scene. They stopped to let him cross in front of them.READ MORE: George Floyd's Cause Of Death, Derek Chauvin's Force Will Be Keys At Trial
Attorneys argued that witness told police later he heard the shot, but officers were outside the squad when it happened. That witness is 16 and, attorneys said, had smoked a joint and taken a shot of whiskey and, therefore, is not a great witness.
The victim’s fiance sobbed as he described hearing the news that she had died. Don Damond was the first witness called by prosecutors.
The victim called 911 to report a possible assault behind her home and was shot minutes after she approached Noor’s squad car.
Don Damond was in Las Vegas when he got a call from investigators saying Justine was dead. He says he learned from a second call that she had been shot by an officer.
Damond said calling Justine’s family in Australia to tell them of her death was the “worst phone call” he’s ever had to make. Members of her family also cried in the courtroom Tuesday as Damond testified.
Justine Damond had taken her fiance’s last name professionally before their marriage. She died a month before their scheduled wedding.
Body Camera Ruling
Meanwhile, the judge ruled that the media will be allowed to look at body camera video during testimony.MORE NEWS: Minnesota Man Struck And Killed While Changing Tire On South Dakota Highway
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)