The Black Minneapolis police officer, Mohamad Noor, who fatally shot an unarmed White woman from Australia last summer, was charged with murder and manslaughter and booked into the county jail on a half-million bond, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.
The episode sparked increased protests last year, spurred the resignation of the city’s police chief, while former officer Noor faces charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
“Officer Noor did not act reasonably,” Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney, said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. He claims Noor “abused his authority to use deadly force.”
Meanwhile, Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, released a statement that his client should not have been charged.
“The facts will show that Officer Noor acted as he has been trained, and consistent with established departmental policy,” Plunkett said, according to the Minnesota newspaper.
Interestingly enough, the head of the local police union, who are usually very quick and vocal in protecting members of the shield, had little to say in this case. Lt. Bob Kroll, leader of the union that represents Minneapolis cops, released a pedestrian statement acknowledging “the tragic shooting of Justine Damond.”
Damond, 40, was a yoga and meditation instructor who was engaged when she reportedly dialed 911 twice. She was horrified that a suspected rape was transpiring in proximity to where she was staying.
Officer Noor and his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, stormed onto the scene in their squad car to the affluent part of Minneapolis within minutes.
This is where details get murky. According to multiple outlets, the two officers drove down the alley near Damond’s residence, in complete darkness, when Officer Harrity reported being startled by a noise and a shadowy figure who appeared outside the car. Both officers unholstered their firearms, claiming they were both “spooked.”
Officer Noor, who was riding shotgun squad car, fired a shot through the cruiser’s open driver’s-side window, fatally striking Damond in the abdomen.
Prosecutors said Officer Harrity, who unholstered his gun but did not pull the trigger, later relayed to his superiors later that “we both got spooked.”
There are two problems with the case that play against Noor: First, neither officer’s body camera was on when the shot was fired; secondly, Noor refused to even be interviewed by investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for months. This may have convinced the investigators that either Noor had something to hide or that he was unable to justify his deadly-force actions.
Prosecutor Freeman said Officer Noor could not rationalize the use of lethal force in this instance.
“Justine was approaching the car unarmed. They couldn’t even tell whether it was a male or a female, an adult or a child,” Freeman said, according to the New York Times. “What is the threat that requires the use of deadly force? What was the serious crime that was going on?”
Meanwhile, the family of the deceased Damond cheered the decision to charge Noor and said “one step toward justice for this iniquitous act,” the Star-Tribune reported.
“We remain hopeful that a strong case will be presented by the prosecutor, backed by verified and detailed forensic evidence, and that this will lead to a conviction,” the family’s statement said, according to the Star–Tribune. “No charges can bring our Justine back. However, justice demands accountability for those responsible for recklessly killing the fellow citizens they are sworn to protect, and today’s actions reflect that.”