MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - On Tuesday, prosecutors questioned the incident commander at the scene of the deadly shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond about why she turned off her body camera while initially talking to former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.
Noor shot and killed Damond on July 15, 2017 after the Australian native 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.
Sgt. Shannon Barnette, the incident commander at the scene, testified Tuesday afternoon that her first act when she got out of her squad car to inquire what was happening was to announce her camera was hot and shut it off.
Barnette had no good explanation when prosecutors asked why she shut off her body camera when she first arrived at the scene. She acknowledged the camera was off during her early conversations with Noor and Harrity. She later turned it back on.
In one video clip from Barnette’s body camera, there is a brief encounter with Noor in his squad car after the shooting. There is no audio, but prosecutors said Noor is pointing towards the driver side window to mimic firing. Barnette said she only asked Noor how he was doing and has no idea why he lifted his arms.
In the body camera shown in court, jurors eventually heard and saw Harrity explain to Barnette what happened a couple of minutes later.
“We just pulled up. We had that call over here. Someone was screaming in the back. I had my gun out. I didn’t fire and then Noor pulled out and fired,” Harrity tells her.
Barnette testified body cameras were new to the Minneapolis Police Department in 2017. She said it was not clear when they should be on or off and what police conversations she should record.
Later in her testimony, prosecutors learned Barnette had subsequent conversations with Harrity in the days and weeks after the shooting, with him telling her that Damond appeared at the squad window with a “stunned look” on her face.
Until Tuesday, Barnette had never relayed that information to prosecutors. When she was asked why she did not, she said she was not asked about it.
Earlier on Tuesday, two members of Hennepin County EMS who responded to the shooting scene each took the stand. Both partners testified no one told them it was an officer-involved shooting and no one said whether anyone had seen Damond alive. Noor’s defense team pressed the partners to admit they did not ask those questions.
Deputy police chief Katherine Waite, who was then the Fifth Precinct inspector, also testified Tuesday morning. She said she was frustrated at how long Damond’s body was left at the scene and why Noor’s squad car was allowed to be washed and returned to service so quickly.
Prosecutors appear to be painting a picture of a police department that was unwilling to share even the most basic information to assist with the investigation.
Noor’s defense team insists everyone had enough information to do their jobs and that Damond had no chance of surviving the gunshot wound.