By Joey Peters
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – A former Minnesota policeman on trial for murder on Friday denied overreacting when he fatally shot an Australian woman who approached his patrol car in a dark alley.
Mohamed Noor, 33, was testifying for a second day in a Minneapolis court. He is charged with murdering 40-year-old Justine Ruszczyk Damond, whom he shot through his car window on the night of July 15, 2017 while responding to her 911 call to report a possible sexual assault.
Prosecutor Amy Sweasy asked Noor whether Damond could have been flagging him down when he saw her raise her right arm.
“Possibly,” Noor responded.
“There is no basis for your belief that she had a weapon, isn’t there?” Sweasy asked.
“I would have to respectfully disagree with that, ma’am,” Noor said, answering in a soft, calm voice.
Noor testified on Thursday that he shot Damond after he and his partner Matthew Harrity, who was driving, heard a loud noise. Harrity had trouble removing his gun from its holster and “he turned to me with fear in his eyes,” Noor said.
On Friday, Sweasy noted that the officers were responding to a call about the possible sexual assault of a woman in a south Minneapolis neighborhood alley.
“You were totally surprised to see a woman in the alley when the nature of your call was a woman screaming in the alley?” Sweasy asked.
“I was surprised by my partner’s reaction,” Noor replied. “I had to make a split-second decision.”
Sweasy asked him if, instead of shooting, he could have told his partner to drive away or demanded Ruszczyk show her hands.
“These are all things you could have done in a split second?” the prosecutor asked.
“No, ma’am,” Noor responded.
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.
Damond’s family filed a civil lawsuit against the city and several police officers last month seeking $50 million in damages.
(Reporting by Joey Peters; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bill Berkrot)