Justine Damond shooting: Mohamed Noor found guilty of murder

The American police officer who shot dead Australian woman Justine Ruszczyk Damond after she called 911 to investigate a possible sexual assault has been found guilty of murder.

Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, 33, has been found guilty of third degree murder (intentionally causing bodily harm but not necessarily death) and second degree manslaughter in relation to Ms Damond’s death.

He was acquitted of the more serious charge of second degree murder (intentionally killing another person).

The jury of 10 men and two women took less than one day to reach their decision. Noor showed no emotion but his wife cried as the jury’s verdict was read. He is facing up to 25 years in prison.

In the courtroom, Ms Damond’s fiance Don Damond and sister-in-law embraced and smiled briefly as the jurors were polled.

“Nearly two years ago my fiance, Justine Damond Ruszczyk, was shot dead in her pyjamas outside our home without warning as she walked up to a police car which she had summoned,” Mr Damond told reporters following the verdict.

“Ironically the Minneapolis Police Department emblem on the squad door reads: ‘To protect with courage and to serve with compassion’.

“Where were these values that night? That night there was a tragic lapse of care and complete disregard for the sanctity of life. The evidence in this case clearly showed an egregious failure of the Minneapolis Police Department.”

Ms Damond’s father John Ruszczyk said his family was “satisfied with the outcome”.

Noor shot and killed Ms Damond, 40, when she approached his police vehicle in an alley behind her south Minneapolis home on July 15, 2017.

Ms Damond, formerly of Sydney, had called police to report a possible sexual assault after hearing a woman scream behind her house.

But when an unarmed Ms Damond — dressed in a pink T-shirt with koalas on it, pyjama pants, carrying a glittery gold iPhone — walked towards the patrol car barefoot and to meet police, Noor shot her in the abdomen at point blank range.

The court previously heard that within one minute and 19 seconds of making the emergency call, Ms Damond was cradling a gunshot wound to her abdomen and saying, “I’m dying”.

media_cameraMohamed Noor was the first Somali-American officer in his precinct. Picture: Supplied
media_cameraJustine Damond was an Australian yoga teacher and spiritual healer. Picture: Nathan Edwards

Noor testified he fired his weapon after he heard a bang on his squad car, saw his partner was scared, then saw Ms Damond at his partner’s window, raising her arm. Noor told the court he feared the pair was being targeted in an ambush and “had to make a split-second decision”.

Noor said his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, shouted “Oh Jesus!” and fumbled with his gun in its holster before “he turned to me with fear in his eyes”.

Noor and Mr Harrity testified Ms Damond startled them before he shot her through the car window.

Lawyers for Noor, who was fired after being charged in the case and has never talked to investigators about what happened, argue that he used reasonable force to defend himself and his partner from a perceived threat.

Prosecutors claimed Noor acted unreasonably and the shooting wasn’t justified.

In her closing arguments this week, prosecutor Amy Sweasy said “this case has tragedy compounded on top of tragedy”.

“(Ms Ruszczyk) is gone because she was tragically and violently gunned down by a police officer she called for help,” she said.

“He (Noor) knew exactly what he was doing.

“He pointed, he aimed and he killed her.”

Ms Damond was living in the US with her American fiance Don Damond, who she was planning to marry just weeks later when she died.

media_cameraJustine Ruszczyk Damond and her fiance Don Damond lived together for two years before her death. Picture: Supplied
media_cameraFormer Minneapolis Police Officer, Mohamed Noor returns to the Hennepin County Government Center with his lawyers on the second day of his trial. Picture: Angus Mordant

Mr Damond was in Las Vegas when he got a call from investigators saying Ms Damond was dead, he told the court during his testimony. He said he learned from a second call that she had been shot by an officer.

Mr Damond said calling his fiance’s family in Australia to tell them of her death was the “worst phone call” he’s ever had to make.

Mr Damond attended the trial every day along with Ms Damond’s parents and family who flew in from Australia. The family of the 33 year old Noor, who was sacked after he was charged and is no longer a policeman, also attended the trial.

Noor’s lawyer asked that he be free on bond pending sentencing, but prosecutors opposed that on the grounds of the seriousness of the case. And the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said it had concerns about Noor’s safety if he was free.

He was led away in handcuffs and will be sentenced on June 7.

— With wires

Originally published as ‘Shot in her pyjamas’: Killer cop guilty

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