MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, charged in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, enters its third week Monday, with key witnesses such as the current and former chiefs of police expected to take the stand.
Noor shot and killed Damond on July 15, 2017 after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her south Minneapolis home. He is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with her death.
Current Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified Monday morning. Arradondo was the assistant chief at the time of the shooting, but he was in command that night because then-chief Janeé Harteau was on vacation. He was on the scene in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
Arradondo’s testimony focused on the department’s body-worn camera policy at the time, ambush worries and his response to the scene. He testified that no one brought up a possible ambush at the time of the shooting nor did he recall hearing about a “slap” or loud noise in the hours following.
Noor’s defense team asked Arradondo if body cameras had to be turned on for calls of "unknown trouble" per the police department’s policies in 2017 MPD policies. He said yes, they should have been turned on for any potential criminal activity call, anything that could become adversarial or required pulling a gun.
Body cameras have become a central theme in the state’s case in terms of when officers turned them on and when they were not recording as well as when and why officers turned them off at the scene’s deadly aftermath.
Arradondo also said he checked in with Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, in the days following the shooting out of concern for their well-being, but he did not add much about those discussions for the jury.
On Monday, jurors also heard from Minneapolis firefighter Sam Eininger who responded to the scene and performed chest compressions on Damond. He testified he could see the alley from Station 28, but his rig had to hold up for some time until police gave the all clear that the shooting scene was no longer dangerous.
Eininger said at the time he had no idea a police officer was the one who pulled the trigger.
The prosecution has also expressed its frustration with Minneapolis police's cooperation with the investigation. While questioning Officer Ty Jindra, the idea of a "blue wall of silence" was presented before the jury. On the night of the shooting, Jindra was in the second squad car to arrive to the scene. Attorneys questioned him for not giving a statement and not meeting with the state ahead of his testimony.
Prosecutors claimed 20 Minneapolis police officers refused to speak with state investigators and the only way to compel them to speak was through a subpoena in the Grand Jury. They said five months after the shooting, the BCA had only been able to interview two officers: Matthew Harrity and Sgt. Shannon Barnette, the incident commander.
Another question brought up to Jindra was if he attended a union meeting regarding the issue of not cooperating with prosecutors. A police sergeant had testified earlier in the day that he made sure to call union chief Lt. Bob Kroll while he was at the shooting scene. Judge Kathryn Quaintance stated Monday afternoon that Lt. Kroll was in contempt of court for violating the witness sequestration order, but took no further action.
So far, the state has called 23 witnesses, 16 of which have been members of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Janee Harteau is also expected to testify. She was the police chief at the time of the shooting, but resigned shortly afterward at the request of then-Mayor Betsy Hodges. She had faced criticism for not returning immediately from a vacation in Colorado when the shooting occurred.
Prosecutors confirmed Friday Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity, will testify eventually. Harrity has not spoken to prosecutors, so there has been no witness preparation. Prosecutors have no idea what he will say when he takes the stand.