US cop who shot dead Australian woman in 2017 found guilty of murder

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor (left) and his attorney Thomas Plunkett leave the Hennepin County Government Center on the second day of jury deliberation on April 30, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor (left) and his attorney Thomas Plunkett leave the Hennepin County Government Center on the second day of jury deliberation on April 30, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.PHOTO: AFP

MINNEAPOLIS (AFP) - A US police officer who shot dead an Australian woman in 2017 was found guilty of murder on Tuesday (April 30) by a Minneapolis jury.

Mohamed Noor, 33, who was fired from the Midwestern city's police force, was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The jury, which was handed the case on Monday after three weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses, acquitted the former officer of the most serious charge of second-degree murder with the intent to kill.

Noor was handcuffed and taken out of the courtroom in custody, according to US media reports.

Noor testified in court that he shot Justine Damond, an Australian who had moved to the US, to protect his partner, because he had feared an ambush when responding to Damond's emergency call.

But prosecutors insisted that the shooting was unreasonable and contrary to police department training policy.

Noor targeted Damond from the passenger seat of the police cruiser he was in with his partner, Matthew Harrity.

 
 
 

The 40-year-old victim, a yoga instructor, had approached the cruiser after calling 911 twice to report a possible rape in the dark alley behind her home.

No such assault was ever found to have occurred.

Prosecutor Amy Sweasy countered that Noor violated Minneapolis police training policies - and endangered the life of his partner and an eyewitness, a teenage cyclist.

"He pulled (the gun). He pointed, he aimed and he killed her," Sweasy said. "This is no accident. This is intentional murder."

Defense attorney Peter Wold told jurors the former officer was heartbroken over the shooting.

Noor testified that he believed there was an imminent threat after he saw a cyclist stop near the police cruiser, heard a loud bang and saw Harrity's "reaction to the person on the driver's side raising her right arm."

Noor added that when he reached from the cruiser's passenger seat and shot Damond through the driver's side window, it was because he thought his partner "would have been killed."

He said that after Damond approached the cruiser, his partner screamed "Oh, Jesus!" and began fumbling to unholster his gun.

Then, Noor said he saw a blonde woman wearing a pink T-shirt raising her right arm at the driver's window, identified her as a threat and fired.

Damond had moved to the Midwestern city to marry her American fiancee Don Damond. She had changed her name from her maiden name Ruszczyk.