MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Prosecutors are pointing to past incidents in former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor’s law enforcement career as well as his pre-hiring psychological evaluations in their effort to keep a judge from dismissing the murder and manslaughter charges against him in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Damond.
Noor is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the July 15, 2017, death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old life coach who was engaged to be married. She was killed after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault.
Last month, Noor’s attorneys filed motions to dismiss the charges because of prosecutorial misconduct and lack of probable cause. They also argued the third-degree murder charge does not meet the “depraved mind” standard under Minnesota law.
Hennepin County prosecutors filed a response to the motions Wednesday, asking the court to deny the motions to dismiss the charges for lack of probable cause. They argued Noor’s “prior acts of recklessness and indifference” during his time as a police officer prove his “state of mind” at the time of the shooting.
According to the court documents, on May 18, 2017, Noor and another officer pulled over a man driving alone in his car in south Minneapolis for what appeared to be a minor traffic violation. Squad video shows Noor got out of his squad car, pulled out his gun, approached the driver’s side and pointed his gun at the driver’s head.
The other officer also approached the car with his gun out, but did not point it directly at the driver. Neither officer gave a justification for their display of force in the incident report. The driver was issued a petty misdemeanor ticket for failing to signal.
“The defendant’s actions showed a reckless disregard for human life and the evidence of his recklessness more than meets the standard for probable cause,” prosecutors allege in court documents.
There were also several incidents during Noor’s training to become a police officer where his field training officers noted issues.
On February 20, 2016, a field training officer wrote in their evaluation “the higher level of stress, the more Noor focuses on one thing and misses other things, like radio transmissions or acknowledging dispatch,” the court documents read.
On March 31, 2016 a field training officer said Noor had “tunnel vision” as he drove, although the training is intended to to teacher an officer to always be “scanning and looking and checking things.” The officer said Noor’s tunnel vision while driving was so bad they had to “yell at him to snap out of it.”
During one of his final days of training on April 8, 2016, Noor’s field training officer said Noor did not want to take calls at times and ignored pending calls when he could have self-assigned to them, including simple calls an officer working alone could easily handle.
Prosecutors also pointed to Noor’s pre-hiring psychological evaluation in 2015, which consisted of an interview and an MMPI test, arguing it "best illustrates his indifference for human life which led to his actions on July 15, 2017."
While the test results showed no diagnoses of mental illness, Noor “reported disliking people and being around them. He is likely to be antisocial and socially introverted.”
The test results also indicated a “level of disaffiliativeness that may be incompatible with public safety requirements for good interpersonal functioning. His self-reported disinterest in interacting with others people is very uncommon among other police officer candidates.”
However, a clinical evaluation conducted by a psychiatrist in conjunction with the test concluded that because there was no evidence of major mental illness, chemical dependence or personality disorder, Noor was “psychiatrically fit to work as a cadet police officer for the Minneapolis Police Department.”
Prosecutors argued Noor, as predicted by the MMPI test results, proved to “have trouble confronting subjects in situations where an officer is supposed to intervene, controlling situations and demonstrating a command presence.”
“The defendant’s work history proves that he overreacts, escalates benign citizens contacts, does not safely take control of situations, and, in the most egregious situations, uses his firearm too quickly, too recklessly, and in a manner grossly disproportional to the circumstances,” the court documents said.
Noor’s next court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 27.