Minnesota police officer who shot unarmed Australian woman is found guilty murder and manslaughter

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The US cop who shot dead an unarmed Australian woman in her pyjamas outside her home has been found guilty of murder and manslaughter charges. 

Former Minnesota police officer Mohamed Noor was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia.

A jury of ten men and two women reached a verdict on Tuesday after three weeks of testimony. The jurors were sequestered. 

Noor, 33, was found guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and was acquitted on the highest charge, second-degree murder.     

The former cop showed no reaction, but his wife cried as the jury’s verdict was read at his trial. He was immediately led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor has been found guilty of third-degree murder and manslaughter

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor has been found guilty of third-degree murder and manslaughter

Yoga teacher and life coach Justine Damond (pictured), 40, was shot dead in a dark alley where she had called police to report a possible sexual assault on the night of July 15, 2017

Yoga teacher and life coach Justine Damond (pictured), 40, was shot dead in a dark alley where she had called police to report a possible sexual assault on the night of July 15, 2017

He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 7. 

THIRD-DEGREE MURDER CHARGE

Third-degree murder is also known as ‘depraved-heart murder,’ meaning the act was committed without intent to effect death, but caused by acting dangerously and without regard for human life.

Second-degree murder means the murder was intentional but was not premeditated. 

Noor was acquitted on the second-degree murder charge.

Second-degree manslaughter occurs when a person causes death through negligence. 

Noor’s attorney asked that he be released on bond pending sentencing, but prosecutors opposed that on the grounds of the seriousness of the case. 

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said it had concerns about Noor’s safety if he was free.

Damond, 40, was shot on July 15, 2017, shortly after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home.

Noor fired at Damond from the passenger seat of the police cruiser he was in with his partner, Matthew Harrity, when she emerged from her home. 

The victim, a yoga instructor, had approached the cruiser after calling 911 twice to report a possible rape in the dark alley behind her home. No such assault was ever found to have occurred.

In court, prosecutor Amy Sweasy said Noor violated Minneapolis police training policies – and endangered the life of his partner and a teenage cyclist also present.

She dismissed speculation that Damond contributed to her own death.

‘He pulled (the gun). He pointed, he aimed, and he killed her,’ Ms. Sweasy said. ‘This is no accident. This is intentional murder,’ she said.    

Noor had testified that he believed there was an imminent threat after he saw a cyclist stop near the police cruiser, heard a loud bang and saw Harrity’s ‘reaction to the person on the driver’s side raising her right arm.’

A courtroom sketch depicts former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor on the witness stand Thursday, April 25. Noor had testified he shot Damond after he heard a bang on his squad car, saw his partner was scared, then saw Damond at his partner's window, raising her arm

A courtroom sketch depicts former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor on the witness stand Thursday, April 25. Noor had testified he shot Damond after he heard a bang on his squad car, saw his partner was scared, then saw Damond at his partner’s window, raising her arm

Damond, who was originally from Sydney, had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home in July 2017

Prosecutors have argued her death is not a justifiable accident

Damond, who was originally from Sydney, had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home in July 2017. Prosecutors argued her death is not a justifiable accident 

Noor added that when he reached from the cruiser’s passenger seat and shot Damond through the driver’s side window, it was because he thought his partner ‘would have been killed.’

He said that after Damond approached the cruiser, his partner screamed, ‘Oh, Jesus!’ and began fumbling to unholster his gun.

Then, Noor said he saw a blonde woman wearing a pink T-shirt raising her right arm at the driver’s window, identified her as a threat and fired.

The prosecutor, however, suggested that the officers should not have been surprised by a woman walking to their car, given that the 911 caller reporting the possible sexual assault was a woman.  

Ms Damond, a dual US-Australian citizen was to due be married to her fiancée a month after her life was cut short. 

Her death sparked anger and disbelief in the U.S. and Australia, cost the city’s police chief her job and contributed to the mayor’s electoral defeat a few months later.

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.

JUSTINE DAMOND SHOOTING – A TIMELINE OF EVENTS

 July 15 – 11.27pm – Justine Damond calls 911 to report hearing sounds of distress from a girl or woman behind her house. She says it may be a rape. A dispatcher says officers should arrive soon.

11.35pm. – Justine calls 911 again to ask why police haven’t arrived yet. She gives the dispatcher the address again.

11.41pm. – Officers Matthew Harrity and Mohamed Noor arrive and drive south down the alley behind Justine’s house. Harrity, who is driving, is startled by a loud noise near his squad car. Justine approaches the driver’s side window immediately afterward, and Noor allegedly fires his gun past Harrity, striking Justine through that window of the vehicle, according to Harrity in an interview with state investigators.

11.42pm – Radio report of one person down, starting CPR.

11.50pm – Radio report of police doing CPR for ‘last four minutes’.

11.51pm – Justine is pronounced dead in the alley at the south end of her block. A medical examiner later says Justine was shot once in the abdomen.

July 16 – Hundreds gather in Justine’s southwest Minneapolis neighborhood to mourn her death. Mayor Betsy Hodges visits scene, says she is ‘heartsick’ and ‘deeply disturbed’ by shooting. State investigators say the officers involved in the shooting had not turned on their body cameras and squad car video didn’t capture the shooting.

July 17 – An autopsy shows Justine died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen. Her fiancé Don Damond says the family has been given no information about how the shooting happened. The officer who allegedly shot Justine is identified as Mohamed Noor, a Somali-American with less than two years of experience who became an officer after working in property management. In a statement from his attorney, Noor offers condolences to Justine’s family.

July 18 – State investigators say Noor declined to be interviewed. They say his partner, Matthew Harrity, told them Harrity was startled by a loud noise right before Justine approached the officers’ SUV, and that Noor – in the passenger seat – shot her through the driver’s-side window.

July 20 – Police Chief Janee Harteau makes first remarks on shooting, says it ‘should not have happened’ but defends Noor’s training. Harteau also says the city is reviewing its policy on body cameras and wants them to be used more often.

July 21 – Harteau resigns at Hodges’ request after the mayor says she no longer has confidence in the chief. Hodges names Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo to take over. At a news conference to discuss the change, Hodges is shouted down by protesters who say she should resign, too.

August 11 – Justine’s family holds a public memorial service in Minneapolis.

August 28 – Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says he expects to decide on charges by year’s end.

September 12 – Authorities announce that the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation has handed the case over to Freeman’s office.

November 18 – Council Member Jacob Frey defeats Hodges in the mayor’s race. Much of the campaign focused on police-community relations.

December 13 – Freeman is caught on video saying he doesn’t have enough evidence to charge Noor and blaming investigators ‘who haven’t done their job’.

December 28 – Freeman says he’ll miss his self-imposed deadline of deciding on charges by year’s end because he needs more time.

January 24, 2018 – Attorneys say Freeman convened a grand jury and subpoenaed other officers to compel them to tell what they know. Freeman says he still intends to make his own decision on charges.

March 20 – Noor turns himself in to the Hennepin County Jail on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Bail is set at $500,000.

March 21 – Noor appears in court where bail is cut to $400,000 conditional on Noor surrendering his passport and not having contact with Harrity

Source: AP 

 



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