Roughly eight months after the death of Australian Justine Ruszczyk Damond, the Minneapolis police officer allegedly responsible for her killing has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Damond was fatally shot in the abdomen on the night of July 15, 2017. Officers Mohamed Noor and Matthew Harrity arrived at her home to respond to 911 calls she’d placed that evening to report that she “could hear a woman in the alley behind her house who was either having sex or being raped…and that (the woman) sounded distressed.”
According to the criminal complaint filed on Tuesday, Officer Harrity was driving and entered a “Code 4” into the vehicle’s computer approximately two minutes after arriving at the scene — indicating that the officers were safe and did not need assistance.
Officer Harrity later stated that within five to ten seconds of entering the Code 4, he heard a voice coming from behind the squad car, along with a thump. The noises startled Harrity who reached for his gun.
At that point, the complaint alleges that Noor “recklessly and intentionally fired his handgun from the passenger seat” fatally wounding Damond, who was standing outside the squad car.
Within days of Damond’s passing, Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau resigned. The chief’s tactics had already been called into question following other high-profile citizen deaths at the hands of officers on the force, including unarmed citizen Jamar Clark who died in November 2015.
The Associate Press reported in December of 2017 that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman was still deciding whether or not to charge Officer Noor in Damond’s killing. Freeman expresses his frustration, saying “I’ve got to have the evidence. And I don’t have it yet. And let me just say, it’s not my fault. So if it isn’t my fault, who didn’t do their jobs? Investigators, and they don’t work for me. And they haven’t done their job.”
Noor refused to cooperate with authorities during the investigation, making it difficult for prosecutors, according to Freeman. “He won’t answer my questions because he doesn’t have to, okay? We all have Fifth Amendment rights, and I respect that. So I can’t talk to her because she’s gone, and the other cop just gave us some (expletive), okay?”
Freeman eventually convened a grand jury, saying that it was needed because other Minneapolis officers also refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Damond’s family reacted to the charges against Noor in a statement on Tuesday, saying “We remain hopeful that a strong case will be presented by the prosecutor, backed by verified and detailed forensic evidence, and that this will lead to a conviction. 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.”