By Christopher Berg and Holly Matkin
Minneapolis, MN – Prosecutors added an additional charge of second degree murder last Thursday against now-former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor for the fatal shooting of Justine Damond.
Noor had been charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter in March.
Hennepin County prosecutors added the latest charge in a motion that said that there's evidence that Noor intended to kill when he pointed his gun at Damond and fired, according to KMSP.
The defense didn't respond to the motion, so the judge allowed the new charge to be added.
Charges were initially announced in March when Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that Officer Noor “recklessly and intentionally fired” his duty weapon on July 15, 2017, when he fatally shot Damond, 40, who had reported a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home, MPR News reported.
According to charging documents, Officer Noor, 32, responded to Damond’s call with his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
With Officer Noor in the passenger seat, Officer Harrity pulled into the alleyway 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 Damon 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.
“There is no evidence that ... officer Noor encountered, appreciated, investigated or confirmed a threat that justified the decision to use deadly force,” the court documents said. “Instead, officer Noor recklessly and intentionally fired his handgun from the passenger seat, a location at which he would have been less able than Officer Harrity to see and hear events on the other side of the squad car.”
Noor faces charges of third-degree murder “perpetrating eminently dangerous act and evincing depraved mind,” second-degree manslaughter “culpable negligence creating unreasonable risk," and now second degree murder.
Noor’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, said that Noor again extended his condolences to Damond’s family, but denied that he had committed any crimes, KSTP reported.
"The facts will show that Officer Noor acted as he has been trained and consistent with established departmental policy," Plunkett said. "Officer Noor should not have been charged.”
Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Chief Medaria Arradondo fired Noor from the department following his arrest.
Freeman, who previously claimed that investigators had not done their jobs in gathering evidence for him to move forward with prosecution, said that the charges against Noor “would’ve been done much quicker” if some members of the MPD had been more cooperative, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
“I’ve been privileged to have this job nearly 18 years, and I’ve never had police officers who weren’t suspects refuse to do their duty and come talk to us,” Freeman said.
Minneapolis Police Officers Federation (POF) union president Bob Kroll denied any allegations that officers were told to not cooperate with the investigation, and said that many of the officers called to testify were not even involved with the case.
“No opinions were offered on what action to take with any of our members. For Mr. Freeman to say this, he is either lying or perpetuating a lie told to him,” Kroll said. “This is evidenced by the fact that nothing in the criminal complaint was discovered during grand jury testimony.”
“We recognize the tragic shooting of Justine Damond has greatly impacted, not only her family and friends, our membership, but also our community,” the POF said in a statement, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We respect the criminal justice process and wait for the case to proceed before making further comment.”
Noor’s jury trial starts April 1.