Accused murderer: Mohamed Noor
A US cop accused of murdering an Australian woman while on duty cried in court as he testified and said his world ‘came crashing down’ when he realised he shot an innocent woman.
Mohamed Noor, 33, is accused of shooting US-Australian Justine Damond on 15 July, 2017 in Minneapolis.
Ms Damond, a 40-year-old life coach who grew up in Sydney before moving to America, had called police to report that she could hear a sexual assault on a street near her home.
When cops arrived, she allegedly approached the police car in an alleyway and was shot through the driver’s window.
Noor and his patrol partner Matthew Harrity could not revive her.
On Thursday, Noor spoke publicly about the incident for the first time.
Noor testified that he fired to stop what he thought was a threat to him and his partner, Matthew Harrity, after he heard a loud bang on the driver’s side of the squad car.
Noor said he saw fear in Harrity’s eyes and saw that Harrity was trying to pull his gun but was having difficulty.
He described putting his left arm over Harrity’s chest, and seeing a woman in a pink shirt with blond hair outside Harrity’s driver’s side window raising her right arm.
‘I fired one shot,’ Noor said. ‘My intent was to stop the threat.’
When he realised he had shot an innocent woman, Noor said, ‘I felt like my whole world came crashing down.’
‘I couldn’t breathe,’ Noor said. ‘I felt great pain.’
Justine Ruszczyk Damond was shot and bled to death after she placed two 911 calls in July 2017 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home
Mohamed Noor is pictured in a court sketch on Thursday 25 April as he testified
Prosecutor Amy Sweasy attacked Noor in cross-examination, noting that Noor didn’t see Damond’s hands or a weapon.
‘You meant to shoot the woman to stop the threat?’ she asked. ‘You knew you were shooting a person?’
‘Yes ma’am,’ he answered.
Earlier, Noor told the court about his training for possible ambushes, saying he learned that reacting too late ‘means you die’.
He described the unorthodox path he took to becoming an officer – he was working as a pharmaceutical analyst before deciding to switch careers – and then detailed his 29-week cadet training in 2015.
Noor was fired from the force soon after being charged. His lawyers have said he was spooked by a noise on his squad car right before the shooting and feared an ambush.
Noor described ‘counter-ambush’ training that included scenarios such as two officers in a squad car, doing routine tasks, and an instructor yelling ‘Threat!’ The officers had to make a quick decision about whether to shoot, Noor said on Thursday.
‘Action is better than reaction,’ Noor said. ‘If you’re reacting, that means it’s too late… to protect yourself… you die.’
Noor described another training exercise where he was sent to a location, heard gunshots and instead of assessing the threat, he ran towards it. An instructor shot him with a paintball gun, he said.
‘So the point is if you don’t do your job correctly, you’ll get killed,’ his lawyer Thomas Plunkett said.
‘Yes, sir,’ Noor answered.
Justine was a dual citizen of the US and Australia who had taken her fiance’s last name ahead of their wedding, set for a month after her death
The death of Ms Damond, who was engaged to be married a month after her death, sparked anger and disbelief in the US and Australia, cost the city’s police chief her job and contributed to the mayor’s electoral defeat a few months later.
Prosecutors have questioned the supposed noise, presumably from Ms Damond slapping the car as she approached, by noting that investigators didn’t find forensic evidence of her fingerprints on the car.
They also questioned the timing of partner Matthew Harrity’s first mention of the thump – not on the night of the shooting but a few days later, as he was being interviewed by state investigators.
Neither officer had their body cameras running when Ms Damond was shot, something Officer Harrity blamed on what he called a vague policy that didn’t require it.
The department toughened the policy after Ms Damond’s death to require that they be turned on when responding to a call.
Noor, 33, is a Somali American whose hiring two years before the shooting was celebrated by Minneapolis leaders as a sign of a diversifying police force in a city with a large population of Somali immigrants.
Noor testified about immigrating from Somalia to the US, where he became a citizen in 1999. He lived first in Chicago, then moved to Minneapolis, where he said he fell in love with the city.
‘I always wanted to serve,’ he said.
On Thursday, Noor (pictured) spoke publicly about the incident for the first time