Justine Damond's memorial ceremony in Minneapolis in 2017 SIPA USA/PA Images
justine damond

US policeman who fatally shot woman who attempted to report possible rape found guilty of murder

The 40-year-old victim was shot after calling emergency services twice.

A US POLICE officer who fatally shot an Australian woman in 2017 has been found guilty of murder by a Minneapolis jury.

Mohamed Noor, 33, who was fired from the city’s police force following the incident, was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter yesterday.

The jury began deliberating on Monday after three weeks of testimony, and acquitted the former officer of the most serious charge of second-degree murder with intent to kill.

Noor testified 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 an emergency call she had made.

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

No such assault was ever found to have occurred.

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

He testified that he believed that 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”.

Damond was wounded in the abdomen and died at the scene. Her last words were: “I’m dying,” according to authorities.

‘Sad and tragic’

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

Damond had moved to the midwestern American city to marry her fiancee, Don Damond, and had changed her name from her maiden name, Ruszczyk.

Her death caused outrage back home and her Australian family was in the courtroom for the trial.

Police Shooting Minneapolis Ex-Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor walking out of court last week Brian Peterson Brian Peterson

At a press conference, Damond’s father, John Ruszczyk, said he believed Noor’s conviction was reached despite the “active resistance” of many police officers and institutions.

The shooting also enraged many of the victim’s neighbours, who mounted a campaign for police reforms, and the city’s police chief at the time was forced to resign within days.

“I want to extend my sincere apologies to the family and friends of Justine Damond Ruszcyzk,” Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement after the verdict.

The chief called the incident “sad and tragic” and acknowledged that it had had an impact “around the world, most significantly in her home country of Australia.”

“I will ensure that the (department) learns from this case,” Arradondo said.

With additional reporting from - © AFP 2019

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