The jury that will decide the fate of Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed woman when she approached his squad car was instructed Monday to weigh its verdict decision without the benefit of hindsight.
Mohamed Noor is on trial for murder and manslaughter in the 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia who had called 911 to report a possible rape behind her home.
Noor testified last week that he was in the passenger seat when he heard a loud bang on the driver’s side, then his partner, Matthew Harrity, yelled and tried to pull his gun. Noor said he then saw a woman raise her arm outside Harrity’s window and fired to save Harrity’s life.
Noor’s attorneys have argued he was justified in using deadly force. Prosecutors say he acted unreasonably because he saw neither a weapon nor Damond’s hands. They also have questioned whether the supposed bang on the squad car was invented.
Judge Kathyrn Quaintance told jurors that officers may use deadly force only if necessary to protect themselves or others from great bodily harm. She said jurors must consider what a reasonable officer in the same situation would do without the benefit of hindsight.
She stressed that jurors should consider only the facts that were known to the officer at the moment of shooting.
Closing arguments were expected later Monday as Noor’s trial entered its fifth week. The jury is to be sequestered once it gets the case.
The death of Damond, 40, a life coach who was engaged to be married a month after the shooting, sparked outrage in both the U.S. and Australia, cost Minneapolis’ police chief her job and contributed to the electoral defeat of the city’s mayor a few months later.
Noor, 33, is a Somali American who became a police officer with a mid-career switch from jobs in the business world. He broke more than 1½ years of silence about the shooting when he testified in his defense last week, saying he became a police officer because he “wanted to serve.”
His hiring two years before the shooting was celebrated by Minneapolis leaders as a sign of a diversifying police force in a city with a large population of Somali immigrants.
He was fired after being charged.
Neither officer had a body camera running when Damond was shot, something Harrity blamed on what he called a vague policy that didn’t require it. The department toughened the policy after Damond’s death to require that the cameras be turned on when responding to a call.