The Minnesota agency investigating the Minneapolis police shooting of Justine Damond says the partner of Officer Mohamed Noor told them Noor shot Damond through an open police cruiser window after a “loud sound” was heard near the vehicle.
The state agency also said that Noor, 31, who had been on the force for 21 months, has declined to be interviewed by state investigators about the shooting.
A search warrant now claims an unidentified woman “slapped” the squad car before Noor fired. According to ABC News, the warrant says, “Upon police arrival, a female ‘slaps’ the back of the patrol squad … After that, it is unknown to BCA agents what exactly happened, but the female became deceased in the alley.”
Officer Matthew Harrity, 25, a one-year veteran of the force, gave the account of the loud noise to the Minnesota Department of Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which released its most detailed accounting yet of the police shooting that cost the life of the 40-year-old Australian spiritual healer and yoga teacher.
The death has outraged people in Australia and Minnesota. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is demanding answers in Damond’s shooting, calling it “inexplicable” and referencing the fact that Damond had called 911 herself to report a possible crime in the alley behind her house.
“How can a woman out in the street in her pyjamas seeking assistance from the police be shot like that?” Turnbull asked, according to ABC Australia. “It is a shocking killing, it is inexplicable.”
It’s not clear what the “loud noise” was that Harrity allegedly described hearing. However, police dispatch audio released online shows there was a report of “aerial fireworks” in the area that night. Damond’s future stepson, Zach Damond, said she heard a noise. You can listen to the dispatch audio here:
The BCA press statement gives Damond’s name as Justine Ruszczyk; Damond was the name of her fiancee, Don Damond, and she was already using it professionally.
BCA says Justine died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen.
The state agency provided these additional details on July 18:
BCA agents interviewed Officer Harrity 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,” BCA said. Noor’s lawyer previously released a brief statement to the news media that said Noor was offering his condolences to Damond’s family; however, that statement did not provide any details of why Noor says he fired his weapon.
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,” says the release.
“As they reached West 51st Street, 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 release says.
“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.”
There may be a possible witness to the shooting.
“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,” the release says.
Crime scene personnel recovered a cell phone near the victim. 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,” BCA said.
You can read more about Mohamed Noor here: