MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jurors on Wednesday heard the 911 calls a woman made to report a possible sexual assault before she was shot by a Minneapolis officer now on trial for murder in her death.
The recordings of Justine Ruszczyk Damond’s voice drew an emotional response from her family members in the Hennepin County courtroom where Mohammed Noor is on trial.
Noor shot Damond in an alley behind her home in July 2017 when the unarmed woman, barefoot and wearing pajamas, approached the police SUV where he and his partner were seated. Noor’s attorneys say he was protecting his partner and himself from what he perceived to be a possible ambush. He fired a single shot at Damond, a dual citizen of both the U.S. and Australia whose death rocked both countries and led to changes in the Minneapolis Police Department.
Defense attorney Tom Plunkett said Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, would haven’t known they were responding to a possible sexual assault because they didn’t hear her 911 calls and were told by dispatchers only that there was a report of a woman screaming behind a building.
Attorneys for Noor, who was fired after being charged in the case and has never talked to investigators about what happened, argued that he used reasonable force to defend himself and his partner from a perceived threat. But prosecutors say there is no evidence he faced a threat that justified deadly force.
Prosecutors’ plans to introduce body camera video showing the aftermath of the shooting were stalled when Plunkett moved to exclude the footage, arguing it would be prejudicial to his client. The footage doesn’t capture the shooting itself because officers turned them only afterward. It shows the officers’ attempts to save Damond.
Judge Kathryn Quaintance agreed to hold off on the footage until she has time to review case law.
Damond, 40, was a life coach who was engaged to be married in a month. Noor, 33, is a Somali American whose arrival on the force just a couple of years earlier had been trumpeted by city leaders working to diversify the police force.