Opening statements expected in ex-Minneapolis cop’s trial
MINNEAPOLIS — With a jury in place, opening statements were scheduled Tuesday in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed an unarmed woman after she called 911 to report a possible rape in the alley behind her home.
Mohamed Noor, 33, who is Somali American, is charged with murder and manslaughter in the July 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old dual Australian-American citizen who was shot when she approached his squad car.
It took a week to select a jury. After 75 prospective jurors answered questions about their views on Somalis and police officers, as well as their experiences with firearms, on-the-job training and other issues, 12 men and four women were selected Monday to hear the case. In the end, only 12 will deliberate and four will serve as alternates. The jurors include a firefighter and paramedic, an obstetrician-gynecologist, a civil engineer, a grocery store manager, a restaurant host, a carpenter and a Homeland Security immigration officer.
Six jurors are people of color, including two Filipino men, an Ethiopian man and a Pakistani woman.
Damond, who was white, was a life coach and set to be married the month after her death. The night she was shot, she had called 911 twice before Noor and his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, arrived.
Harrity told investigators he was driving a police SUV when he heard a voice and a thump and caught a glimpse of someone outside his window. Harrity said he was startled and thought his life was in danger. He said he then heard a noise and turned to see that Noor, in the passenger seat, had fired his gun and hit Damond, who was in her pajamas.
Noor refused to talk to investigators. The officers did not turn on their body cameras until after the shooting, and there was no squad car video.
Prosecutors charged Noor with second-degree intentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, saying there is no evidence he faced a threat that justified deadly force. They must prove he acted unreasonably when he shot Damond.
Minnesota law allows police officers to use deadly force to protect themselves or their partners from death or great bodily harm; Noor’s attorneys have said they plan to argue he used reasonable force and acted in self-defense.
Noor’s attorneys haven’t said whether he will testify. If he does, prosecutors may be able to introduce some evidence that the defense wanted to keep out of the state’s case, including that he has refused to talk to investigators. They also could bring up a 2015 psychological test that showed Noor disliked being around people and had difficulty confronting others. Despite that test, a psychiatrist found him fit to be a cadet officer.
The shooting, which got international attention, raised questions about Noor’s training. The police chief defended Noor’s training, but the chief was forced to resign days later. The shooting also led to changes in the department’s policy on use of body cameras.