MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - A use of force expert called to the stand by prosecutors Wednesday testified that former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor and his partner were wrong to pull out their weapons inside their squad car in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, saying it violated police training in weapons handling.
Lt. Derrick Hacker of the Crystal Police Department was the first use of force expert to take the stand for the state. Hacker was paid nearly $30,000 to review the entire case for prosecutors and to testify at the trial. He is the commander of the West Metro SWAT team and serves as a firearms and use of force instructor.
Hacker said Noor’s use of deadly force was excessive and unwarranted in Damond’s shooting death.
Hacker said police officers are approached in their squad cars all the time and that Damond did nothing wrong, even if she “slapped” or made contact with the vehicle. He claimed Noor did not properly assess the situation and insisted his use of force was not warranted in the moment.
The deadly shooting occurred after Damond called 911 earlier that night to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home in Minneapolis’ Fulton neighborhood. Hacker blasted Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, for not reaching out proactively to the 911 caller. According to him, they should have noted Damond called 911 several times because she was worried about the situation.
The deadly incident would never have occurred if the officers had taken that step, he said. Hacker said it was “unreasonable, unacceptable and just unsafe,” for the officers to pull out their weapons inside their squad car.
An investigative report commissioned by the defense that quotes Noor came up during a tense cross-examination of Hacker. Hacker was asked about his conclusion that the officers had their guns out in the squad car as they drove down the alley. Noor’s defense team asked what he was using to base his conclusion on and he referenced the report.
When the report was mentioned, the jury was sent out and some of Noor's comments were read without the jury present. In the report, Noor was first quoted as saying he had his gun out as the squad car was driving down the alley. He said he holstered it, but he pulled it out again after hearing a thud and Harrity’s scream and then he shot.
However, an amended defense report found Noor corrected the record and said he actually had his gun holstered all the way down the alley. The amended report said he only pulled his gun out and fired once hearing the thud and seeing his partner frightened.
Before the cross-examination, the judge had not seen or heard about this defense report or its amended version. FOX 9’s Paul Blume reports she was caught off guard, so she sent the jury out of the courtroom to discuss the issue. She said she will strike references to it when the jury returns.
The report was written by the defense's expert/investigator William O'Keefe. The judge claims it is unreliable, third hand information, but prosecutors argued they are willing to subpoena O'Keefe themselves and put him on stand to talk about the two versions.
Noor is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Damond’s shooting death.