As Justine Damond Homicide Trial Starts, Detective Testifies Area Was Well-Lit
Minneapolis, MN – The head of the homicide unit testified at the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor on Thursday that the alley where the officer shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond was lit brightly enough that he could clearly see the crime scene when he arrived.
Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman testified that he was confused by the sight of a barefoot woman covered by a sheet, with no weapon nearby, when he arrived in the alley where the incident occurred on July 15, 2017, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
“I didn’t see anything, and my first thought, frankly, was, ‘What the [expletive]? Why isn’t there something here?’” Lt. Zimmerman testified. “You’re looking for things that add up.”
The defense has argued that the lighting in the alley was bad and that the officers could not clearly see Damond, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
But Lt. Zimmerman said that he could clearly see and that there was a streetlight next to the scene that illuminated both the police car and Damond’s body.
“I could see the officers that were there. I could see the victim just like I’m looking at you right now,” he testified.
The now-infamous shooting of an Australian woman who called police to report a suspected crime in the alley behind her house occurred when 32-year-old Officer Noor and his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, responded to Damond’s 911 call, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
With Officer Noor in the passenger seat, Officer Harrity pulled into the alleyway behind Damond’s house with the patrol car’s headlights deactivated, and removed the safety hood from the holster of his duty weapon.
He said that he heard a dog barking as he neared Damond’s home, and that he slowed the vehicle to two miles per hour, but never stopped.
Approximately two minutes later, the officers approached the end of the alley, and waited for a bicyclist to pass as they cleared from the call.
Officer Harrity said that moments later, he heard a voice and a thump towards the rear of the patrol car, and then “caught a glimpse of a person’s head and shoulder’s outside his window.”
He said that the person, later identified as Damond, was approximately two feet away, and that he could not see her hands, and did not know if she had any weapons.
The startled officer recalled having said, “Oh s**t,” or “Oh Jesus,” and grabbed for his duty weapon, believing his life was in danger. He said he drew the weapon and held it to his rib cage, pointed downwards.
Officer Harrity said that he then heard a noise “that sounded like a light bulb dropping on the floor, and saw a flash.”
After checking to see if he had been shot, Officer Harrity said he realized that Officer Noor’s right arm was extended towards him, and that Damond was standing outside the driver’s side window with her hands on the left side of her abdomen, covering a gunshot wound.
She said, “‘I’m dying,’ or ‘I’m dead,’” according to the court documents.
Officer Harrity rushed to her aid, and told Officer Noor to re-holster his weapon and to activate his bodycam.
He initiated CPR, and Officer Noor eventually took over. Damond died at the scene.
Testimony at Noor’s trial revealed that several of the officers at the scene that night, including some who attempted life-saving measures, had no idea that Damond had been shot by a police officer, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
On Thursday, jurors began reviewing bodycam and other surveillance video from the night of the shooting.
Noor is charged with second-degree murder with intent, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
His field training officers and two psychiatrists had raised concerns about then-Officer Noor’s fitness to serve the community for more than two years before he shot Damond.