Noor to plead not guilty

Filing in Damond case offers a glimpse at ex-officer’s defense

Noor. Photo courtesy City of Minneapolis
Noor. Photo courtesy City of Minneapolis

The former police officer charged with murder in the July 2017 shooting death of Justine Damond intends to plead not guilty, according to a Hennepin County District Court document filed April 25.

The document indicates the attorneys representing Mohamed Noor intend to argue he was acting in self defense and used reasonable force when, as one of two officers responding to Damond’s July 15 911 call, he shot and killed her in the alley behind her home in the Fulton neighborhood. Noor’s employment with the Minneapolis Police Department was terminated in March on the same day he was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The same document on file at the courthouse shows Noor’s defense intends to call Minneapolis private investigator William O’Keefe to testify at trial. No other potential witnesses are listed.

When he announced the charges against Noor on March 20, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the ex-officer acted “recklessly” when he reached across his partner and fired his handgun from the passenger seat of their police SUV. In an interview at the scene of the incident, Noor’s partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, said they “both got spooked” when Damond approached their vehicle in the dark alley. Freeman said there was no evidence of a threat that justified Noor’s use of deadly force.

Attorney Tom Plunkett, part of Noor’s defense team, has said his client was acting in accordance with his training and department policy.

A 40-year-old native of Australia also known as Justine Ruszczyk, Damond was living in Fulton with her fiancé, Don Damond. They had planned to marry last August in Hawaii.

Under pressure from then-Mayor Betsy Hodges, former Minneapolis police chief Janeé Harteau resigned a week after the incident. Damond’s death also prompted changes intended to strengthen the police department’s body-worn camera policy. Although both Noor and Harrity were equipped with the cameras, neither camera was recording at the time of the shooting.

The next hearing in the case was scheduled for May 8.

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