State rests its case, former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor takes stand

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor took the stand Thursday afternoon to testify in his own defense in the trial for the July 2017 shooting death of Australia native Justine Ruszczyk Damond. It is the first time he has spoken on the record about the fatal shooting. 

The State of Minnesota rested its case at 12:08 p.m. Thursday after questioning finished with their second use-of-force expert, Timothy Longo. Longo's last words to jury were that he had no statements from Noor in reaching his conclusions. 

The defense began to present their case when court resumed at 12:45 p.m., calling Noor to testify. 

Noor’s defense attorney, Tom Plunkett, walked Noor through his early life up through his police training. Plunkett asked Noor about coming to Minneapolis with his family as a 7-year-old boy. 

"When I moved here, no one liked Somalis,” Noor said. 

As he got older, Noor testified that he fell in love with the city and its diversity. He said he wanted to serve the community by becoming a police officer. 

When the court broke for lunch, Plunkett was asking Noor about counter-ambush training and his experiences protecting his partner. 

He asked, “If you don't do your job correctly, do you get killed?" Noor answered, "Yes, sir."

“Actions are better than reactions,” Noor continued. “If you are reacting, it's too late to protect yourself." 

Plunkett asked, "What happens if you react?" and Noor replied, “You die.” 

Under direct examination, Noor admitted to making a mistake at the shooting range with his gun that got him chewed out by superiors. He said it was a learning experience and that the academy is where you make those mistakes.

They have not yet discussed the Damond shooting. 

The defense has asked the judge to dismiss all three charges against Noor, which includes second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Judge Kathryn Quaintance says there is "sufficient evidence to allow all charges to go to jury."

When court resumed in the afternoon, Noor detailed how he distinctly recalled seeing a blonde female at the window wearing a pink t-shirt. He said she raised her right arm.

His partner said, "Oh Jesus" and struggled to unholster his gun, which prompted Noor to fire his gun. 

Noor says he put his left arm across the chest of his partner, raised up out of the passenger seat, stretched his right arm and gun beyond the steering wheel and pulled the trigger to neutralize the perceived threat. 

"My intent was to stop the threat and save my partner's life," Noor said on the stand. 

Damond's loved ones were distraught in court Thursday afternoon as Noor recounted the moment. 

Noor also broke down at the end of the shooting testimony, telling jurors he never would have become a cop if he knew he'd shoot and kill and innocent woman. 

As court recessed, prosectuors were in the middle of a tense cross examination of Noor. 

The Defense will now regroup and formulate a strategy for Friday after initially trying to stretch court until 5 p.m., but jurors had time commitment issues, so the judge recessed for the day. 

The shooting 

At 11:27 p.m. on July 15, 2017, Damond called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her house on the 5000 block of Washburn Avenue in Minneapolis’ Fulton neighborhood. 

In his testimony, Justine’s fiancé, Don Damond, told the court that he had received a call from her a few minutes prior in which she told him she thought she could hear a woman possibly being sexually assaulted. He said he told her to call the police and stay put. That was the last time he heard from her. 

At 11:35 p.m., Justine called 911 again and said no one had arrived and she was worried they got the address wrong. 

According to the charges, Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, entered the alley on 50th Street in their squad car at 11:37 p.m. Harrity was driving. 

They neared the end of the alley at 11:39 p.m. Noor entered “Code 4” into the squad computer, which meant the officers were safe and needed no assistance.

A few seconds later, Harrity reportedly heard a thump on the back of the squad car, which startled the officers--although that “thump” has been disputed by prosecutors. Harrity testified that he was reaching for his gun when Noor reached across him and fired a shot through the open driver’s side window.  

Noor fatally shot Justine at 11:40 p.m.—13 minutes after the first 911 call. 

Harrity got out of the squad and helped guide Justine to the ground. The officers attempted to provide aid to her, but she died at the scene. 

The officers were wearing body cameras, but did not turn them on until after the shooting. Jurors watched Harrity's body camera footage earlier in the trial, which shows Justine taking her final breaths. 

This is a developing story. Developments from the courtroom will be posted here as they are made available. Follow FOX 9 reporter Paul Blume on Twitter for updates.