MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minneapolis Police Officer Matthew Harrity, who was Mohamed Noor’s partner the night Justine Ruszczyk Damond was shot and killed, took the stand Thursday.
Noor faces murder and manslaughter charges in the 2017 shooting death of 40-year-old Ruszczyk Damond. She had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home.
Harrity, who is a critical witness in the case, told prosecutors he loved working with Noor.
According to Harrity’s testimony, he removed the “safety hood” from his gun, a 9mm semi-automatic, before responding to Ruszczyk Damond’s 911 call because “anything can happen any time” and every call can be a threat. Ruszczyk Damond was unarmed.
Harrity testified he heard a thump on the driver’s rear door but didn’t know what it was. He then reached for his gun because he didn’t know if it was a threat. Harrity says he remembers being startled. He thought the thump could be a possible ambush. Harrity admitted he thought of his safety first.
Harrity then heard a “very mellow pop and saw a flash.” He said it sounded like a lightbulb being dropped to the ground. Harrity said he didn’t know if he was shot but determined he was OK.
When the prosecution pressed Harrity on why he didn’t raise his gun after being startled by the thump, he said he was taught you can’t shoot at something before you’ve identified a threat and a target. In this case, he said he had not analyzed the threat before Noor shot Ruszczyk Damond and to deadly force at that point would have been premature.
Harrity’s body camera footage was shown during the testimony. Ruszczyk Damond can be heard in the video saying, “I’m dead, I’m dying.” Harrity told Noor to holster his gun and began giving Ruszczyk Damond CPR. At one point in the video, Noor gives CPR as Harrity instructs him. Harrity is heard saying, “Keep fighting, ma’am. Stay with us.”
Noor’s body camera footage was also shown during Harrity’s testimony. In the video, Noor looks over Harrity’s shoulder as he performs CPR on Ruszczyk Damond. He turns, walks away and walks in circles, pacing for a nearly two minutes.
During his testimony, Harrity said the two officers pulled into the alley where Ruszczyk Damond was fatally shot with their lights and sirens off. They used a spotlight to look around the alley.
Harrity testified their body cameras were not initially turned on the night of the shooting because Harrity said he didn’t think policy warranted it. Earlier this week, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that both Harrity and Noor should have turned on their body cameras when responding to the call for help.
Harrity talked about the days following the shooting before he spoke with investigators, describing how he sat at home and stared at a black TV screen. During his testimony, Harrity said his wife had trouble getting his attention during that time.