MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – Minnesota prosecutors on Tuesday will argue that former police officer Mohamed Noor committed murder when he shot Australian national Justine Damond near her home after she reported a suspected crime, in the trial’s opening statements.
Attorneys for Noor, 33, are expected to argue in Hennepin County District Court that he was responding to a perceived deadly threat after he and his partner heard an unexplained loud noise and the 40-year-old Damond approached their car in an alley near her Minneapolis home, prompting Noor to shoot out of his window.
The July 2017 shooting, which Australia’s then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called “shocking” and “inexplicable,” added to a wave of controversial U.S. police killings of unarmed civilians, and led to the resignation of Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau.
Noor has pleaded not guilty to charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, which carry respective penalties of up to 25 and 10 years in prison.
Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, were responding to a 911 police emergency call about a suspected sexual assault. Prosecutors said Noor “recklessly” fired his gun out the patrol car window, killing Damond.
City officials have said Noor violated procedures and Damond “didn’t have to die.”
Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, had taken the name of her fiance, Don Damond, ahead of their wedding planned for August 2017. She owned a meditation and life-coaching company, according to her personal website.
Her family filed a civil lawsuit against the city and several police officers last month seeking $50 million in damages. It accuses Noor and Harrity of conspiring to conceal the facts around the shooting and failing to record the incident on their body cameras.
It took the court six days to select a pool of 16 jurors, including four alternates.
(Reporting by Joey Peters in Minneapolis, writing by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)