'Treat her body with dignity': Justine Damond's fiance gives emotional account of shooting aftermath

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Justine Damond's fiance, Don Damond, testifies in court as part of the Mohamed Noor murder trial. Courtroom sketch by Cedric Hohnstadt

Emotional words from Justine Ruszczyk Damond’s fiancé, Don Damond, opened testimony from the prosecution Tuesday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.

Over the course of three hours, Damond recounted his final phone calls and text messages with his bride-to-be. He and Justine were set to be married in Hawaii just a month after the shooting. 

On July 15, 2017, Damond was in Las Vegas for a work trip. He received a call from Justine around 11:23 p.m. She told him she thought she could hear a woman possibly being sexually assaulted.

In a 53-second phone call, Don told Justine to call the police and “stay put.” He told the courtroom he felt a sense of relief knowing that the police would be on their way soon.

“I was concerned for Justine’s safety during the phone conversation,” Damond said. “There was a sense of confidence after the police were called.”

According to the charges, Noor fatally shot Justine at 11:40 p.m.

Several times throughout the night, Don Damond tried reaching back out to Justine for follow-up about the possible assault she overhead. A text sent at 11:47 p.m. went unanswered, as did a call at 1:53 a.m. and a text at 2:26 a.m. 

It wasn’t until he returned to his hotel did Damond receive a call from a number he didn’t recognize. On the other end was a Minneapolis police officer, who said, “There was a shooting and we think that Justine is deceased as a result of that shooting.”

Still in disbelief, Damond said he told his colleague and immediately returned to his hotel room to pack and leave for the airport.

When asked by the prosecution what he thought happened, Damond said, “I had no idea ... I thought it was the perpetrator.” 

Damond explained it wasn’t until he received a call from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that he learned Justine had been shot by police.

During this portion of the testimony, Damond was overcome with emotion, sobbing in the witness stand.

“I was in shock, I was shaking,” Damond told the court. “I said, ‘Please treat her body with dignity.’”

Damond said that he didn’t want Justine’s father to hear the news from anyone but him. 

“It was painful, dramatic, the worst call that I ever had to make in my life,” he said.

Following their investigation, authorities returned Justine’s belongings to Damond. Among the items was her engagement ring. He says it was then when the heart-wrenching truth sunk in that his fiancee was gone.

“You hold out hope that everything was a mistake,” said Damond.

Damond has since sold the home on Washburn Avenue South. He says it was too painful to be in the house alone and travel through the alley every day where she had been killed.

During the cross examination, the defense asked Damond about Justine's exercise habits. They questioned him about Justine's kick boxing classes.

In a fiery end to Tuesday's testimony, the defense indicated they may file a late motion to mute some body-worn camera footage when it is shown in court. The defense argued it may be too prejudicial. The prosecutors fired back at the defense for even bringing up the subject now that the trial is underway. So far nothing has been filed yet.