A Minneapolis police officer is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the case of an unarmed Australian woman who was shot and killed after calling 911 to report a possible crime.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told reporters at a news conference that Officer Mohamed Noor killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond, 40, last July as she was approaching the squad car in which he and his partner were sitting, and before he could see the woman’s hands.
“Officer Noor did not act reasonably, did not act objectively reasonably, and abused his authority to use deadly force,” said Freeman.
As the Two-Way reported in July 2017,
“Transcripts of 911 calls released by the police department on Wednesday showed that Ruszczyk phoned to say she was worried a rape might be taking place outside her home. According to the officer driving the squad car that arrived on the scene, he was startled by a loud noise nearby. After that, Ruszczyk approached the driver’s side of the car, and the other officer in the car, Mohamed Noor, shot her once through the open driver’s window.
The officers’ body and car cameras had not been turned on.”
Minnesota law defines third degree murder as,
“Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years.”
Freeman explained his justification for charging Noor with third degree murder.
“A person sitting in a passenger seat of a squad car takes a gun, hears a noise, maybe sees some object…he reaches across in front of his partner, shoots a gun at an object that he can’t see. That’s evidence of a depraved mind in my view,” he said.
The case drew international attention and the killing lead to the resignation of Minneapolis’ former police chief Janee Harteau. Noor had been with the police force for two years and his hire initially was touted by city leaders and Minnesota’s Somali-American community.
Damond’s father, John Ruszcyzk, and her fiance, Don Damond, issued a joint statement applauding the decision to charge Noor.
“No charges can bring our Justine back. However, justice demands accountability for those responsible for recklessly killing the fellow citizens they are sworn to protect, and today’s actions reflect that,” the statement said as quoted by the Associated Press.
Noor turned himself in and his bail was set at $500,000. He has not yet offered his version of the events leading to the fatal shooting. He had been on administrative leave since the shooting and was terminated on Tuesday.