Police dispatch audio has emerged in the Minneapolis police shooting of Justine Damond, an Australian spiritual healer.
The shooting death of Damond, 40, by Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor has sparked outrage in Minnesota and in Australia, where Damond was raised in Sydney. You can listen to the dispatch audio here:
It starts with a dramatic statement that news outlets have interpreted differently. Some think an officer says, “Female screaming behind the building.” Others think the audio says, “Female standing behind the building.” Then, “shots fired, and one down.” One officer says, “There are no suspects at large,” and one asks for EMS. Two shots were heard, a dispatcher says at one point. There’s talk that shots are possibly “aerial fireworks.” The latter may prove important because Noor’s partner that night, Officer Matthew Harrity, told state investigators he heard a loud noise outside the squad right before Noor fired through a window in the cruiser, killing Damond, who was approaching the car.
The family of the yoga teacher and meditation trainer says she called 911 because she heard a noise that she thought was a possible sexual assault.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has reported, through anonymous sources, that Noor allegedly shot Damond through the driver’s side door of a police cruiser while she spoke to his partner, Matthew Harrity. Noor is accused of firing his weapon from his position in the passenger seat, the newspaper reported.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the shooting, released its most detailed accounting of it yet on July 18. BCA identified Justine Damond as Justine Ruszczyk; Damond was the name she used professionally. BCA identified the officer in the squad’s driver’s seat as Matthew Harrity, 25, a one-year veteran of the force. He did not fire his weapon.
“BCA agents interviewed Officer Harrity earlier today,” BCA wrote on July 18. “Officer Noor has declined to be interviewed by BCA agents at this time. Officer Noor’s attorney did not provide clarification on when, if ever, an interview would be possible.”
According to the BCA’s preliminary investigation, “officers Harrity and Noor responded to a 911 call from a woman now identified as Ruszczyk of a possible assault near her residence just after 11:30 p.m. Saturday. Officer Harrity was driving. Officer Noor was in the passenger seat. The officers drove south through the alley between Washburn and Xerxes avenues toward West 51st Street in search of a suspect. All squad lights were off.”
As they reached West 51st Street, continued BCA, “Officer Harrity indicated that he was startled by a loud sound near the squad. Immediately afterward Ruszczyk approached the driver’s side window of the squad. Harrity indicated that Officer Noor discharged his weapon, striking Ruszczyk through the open driver’s side window. The officers immediately exited the squad and provided medical attention until medical personnel arrived. Ruszczyk was pronounced dead at the scene. Both officers have been placed on standard administrative leave.”
Officer Harrity told investigators “that the officers saw an 18-25 year old white male who was bicycling eastbound on West 51st Street immediately before the shooting. This individual stopped at the scene and watched as the officers provided medical assistance to Ruszczyk. BCA agents would like to speak with this person, and anyone else who may have witnessed the incident. These individuals are asked to contact the BCA at 651-793-7000.”
Crime scene personnel recovered a cell phone near the victim, BCA reported, adding, “No weapons were recovered.”
“Body cameras were not turned on until after the shooting incident. The squad camera was not turned on. Investigators are aware of no video or audio of the shooting. The BCA’s investigation does not determine whether a law enforcement agency policy was violated. That would be reviewed through the agency’s internal affairs process,” continued the BCA.
Noor’s attorney released a statement in which the officer offered condolences to Damond’s family. The statement expressed that law enforcement was a calling to the officer, who came to the United States when he was young and became the first Somali-American officer in his precinct.
The audio shed some additional light on the sequence of events that unfolded the night of July 15 when Damond, reportedly in her pajamas, thought she heard a noise in the alley behind the Minneapolis home she shared with Don Damond, a casino vice president and her fiancee.
Listen to Damond’s heartbroken fiancee speak about her death:
You can read more about Mohamed Noor here: