Cop Who Fatally Shot Bride-to-be in the Stomach Speaks Out to Offer His ‘Condolences’ as Autopsy Reveals How He Killed Her With One Bullet Fired Through His Squad Car Door After She Called 911
Shekhar Bhatia, Hannah Parry, Hannah Moore, and Brianne Tolj, Daily Mail, July 18, 2017
The Minneapolis cop who shot dead bride-to-be Justine Damond through a squad car door ‘offers condolences’ as the Mayor demands to know why the officers’ bodycams were not switched on.
Mohamed Noor, 31, released a statement saying he ’empathizes with the loss others are experiencing’ but demanded everyone respect his privacy after he fatally shot the 40-year-old once though the abdomen.
Damond had called the cops to report someone being sexually assaulted in the alley by her house, and was talking to Noor’s fellow officer, who was in the driving seat of the squad car, when Noor, who was in the passenger seat, leaned across and opened fire, police say.
Neither of the officers had their body cameras switched on at the time.
Mayor of Minneapolis Betsy Hodges said a ‘key question’ for investigators was why those cameras were off.
‘You know, I fought hard to make sure that we have body cameras, she told GMA. ‘They’re a very powerful tool, they’re not an infallible tool, but they’re an important tool in 21st century policing and I don’t know why they weren’t turned on.
‘I don’t know what happened. That’s one of the key questions that we have as the investigations move forward.’
Police in Minneapolis are required to wear bodycams at all time, but they are not continually active and are manually switched on when an officer anticipates they will be needed. It is not know why the squad car camera cannot be used in this case.
The decision to equip all police with bodycams came after the black motorist Philando Castile was shot by an officer in 2016 in controversial circumstances.
The BCA is currently trying to establish if any video of the shooting exists and Noor has already hired an attorney, according to local Minneapolis news.
The Mayor, who has posted on Facebook she ‘wanted to take a moment to recognize Officer Mohamed Boor, the newest Somali officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, demanded fast answers as the investigation began on Monday.
On Monday, her fiance Don Damond said the family were ‘desperate for information’ about her shooting – in which he referred to as a homicide.
Her heartbroken parents spoke for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, describing their shock at their daughter’s death and calling on ‘the light of justice to shine down’.
‘We thought yesterday was our worst nightmare but we awoke to the ugly truth and it hurt even more,’ a shattered John Ruszczyk said, flanked by his wife.
‘Justine, our daughter, was so special to us and so many others. We went down to Freshy (Freshwater) beach this morning and saw the blackness turn to light.
‘Justine was a beacon to all of us, we only ask that the light of justice shine down on the circumstances of her death.’
The 40-year-old was gunned down by Noor, 31, the first Somali-American officer in his precinct.
Autopsy results reveal Damond, who was wearing her pyjamas when she was shot by policeman Noor, died as a result of a homicide.
The chilling moments directly after she was killed at around 11.30pm on Saturday were captured on an audio exchange between dispatch and the officers involved, on the website Minnesota PoliceClips.
One officer can be heard saying he sees a ‘female screaming behind a building’ and ‘one down’ from the same location before saying they are performing CPR after ‘shots fired’.
In a statement released by his attorney, the officer said he takes the family’s loss ‘seriously and ‘keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers’.
‘He came to the United States at a young age and is thankful to have had so many opportunities. He takes these events very seriously because, for him, being a police officer is a calling. He joined the police force to serve the community and to protect the people he serves. Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves and he empathizes with the loss others are experiencing,’ the statement read.
‘The current environment for police is difficult, but Officer Noor accepts this as part of his calling. We would like to say more, and will in the future.’
‘At this time, however, there are several investigations ongoing and Officer Noor wants to respect the privacy to the family and asks the same in return during this difficult period.’
Mr Damond, who addressed the assembled media from his backyard in Minneapolis, said ‘piecing together Justine’s last moments before the homicide will be a small comfort as we grieve this tragedy.’
‘Our hearts are broken and we are utterly devastated by the loss of Justine,’ he added, as he was comforted by his son Zach during the press conference.
Don’s voice broke, and the grieving fiance appeared on the edge of tears, as he described the little he did know about what took place the night Justine died.
‘It was Justine that called 911 on Saturday evening reporting what she believed was an active sexual assault occurring nearby.
‘Sadly, my family and I have been provided with almost no additional information from law enforcement regarding what happened after police arrived.
‘We have lost the dearest of people and we are desperate for information.’
Damond grew up in the northern beaches of Sydney, with her father and mother running a well-known Dymocks bookstore in the local shopping mall.
A bright and bubbly young woman, she completed high school at Northern Beaches Secondary College in Manly, before going on to study at the University of Sydney.
In 2002, she graduated with a bachelor degree in veterinary science, but her passion for life and neuroscience saw her eventually pursue a career in healing.
Training to become a therapist, she went on to start up her ‘meditate, evolve, create’ business, through which she ran workshops, clinics and provided online advice.
But her life changed upon meeting American businessman Don Damond, with the pair entering a relationship that resulted in her moving to be with him in the US.
Don described Justine as ‘kind and so darn funny’.
‘She touched so many people. She was a teacher to so many, in living a life of openness, kindness and love,’ he said. ‘She made us all laugh with her great wit and her humor.’
‘Our lives are forever changed as a result of knowing her.
‘It’s difficult to fathom how to go forward without her in my life.’
Don, who promised to provide further statements as more information came to light, also thanked friends, family and strangers for ‘the amazing outpouring of love and support that we received’ after the loss of Justine.
‘The death of Justine is a loss to everyone who knew her.’
On her therapy website , Justine described seeing many of her family members suffer with cancer as being an influence on her taking up a career in ‘healing and transforming’ lives.
She regularly appeared at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Centre teaching meditation and yoga classes, with many of her sessions posted to the the LSHC YouTube page.
But a friend of Ms Damond revealed that in addition to her professional help, she also selflessly went above and beyond for her friends.
Jay Peterson said that when a close friend of Ms Damond struggled to fall pregnant, she donated some of her own eggs to help, Fox 9 reports.
‘That’s just the kind of person Justine was,’ Mrs Peterson said.
The shooting occurred near the intersection of 51st Street and Washburn Avenue South, in the city’s Fulton neighborhood.
The driver of the squad car that pulled up in the alley behind the home Damond shared with her fiance has been identified as Matthew Harrity, a community service officer since 2016.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) – the state agency investigating the shooting – has so far kept tight-lipped on how the circumstances that led to the death of the yoga and meditation teacher.
They have admitted that no weapons were recovered from the scene and according to the Star Tribune witnesses to the shooting have described Damond approaching the police cruiser in the alley behind her house.
She was holding her cell phone and talking to an officer on the drivers side before she was shot.
The only concrete statement the BCA has made so far is to confirm that ‘at one point an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman’.
Meanwhile the cop who shot her, was already under investigation for ‘violently’ forcing a woman to hospital, court documents allege.
Noor, who joined the Minneapolis Police in March 2015, has reportedly had three complaints made against him in two years – including a lawsuit.
Two are from 2017 and one from 2016 is closed and according to Lou Raguse of Kare 11 is marked ‘not to be made public’.
The lawsuit stems from a police call on May 25, 2017, when Noor and two other officers took a woman to hospital and she claimed that they carried out false imprisonment, assault and battery.
According to the ongoing lawsuit, the woman claimed that Noor ‘grabbed her right wrist and upper arm’ when moving her, leaving her ‘immobilized’.
The woman, a retired social worker from Minneapolis, alleged that she had called 911 to ‘report an unknown young male who was sitting on her retaining wall behind her house smoking marijuana.’
Officers followed up on her complaint but returned to her home at 8pm to carry out a welfare check after ‘one or more relatives’ allegedly complained to police that she had ‘some sort of mental health problem’.
The woman alleged that she told the officers to leave but they forced a way into her home through a screen door and told her she was going to hospital for a ‘mental health crisis.’
‘Defendant Officer Noor grabbed Plaintiff’s phone from her hand and then grabbed her right wrist and upper arm, thereby immobilizing her,’ the complaint alleged.
She was eventually released from hospital one and a half hours later after a physician ordered that she was discharged, according to the court documents.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told the Star Tribune on Monday the police officers’ body cameras should have been operating when they responded to Ms Damond’s call.
‘I do understand this, they were driving down an alley, the victim approached the car. That’s not necessarily a time you must [be taping], but frankly I think it’s a time you should,’ he said.
The county attorney said he would decide whether or not to charge Noor with the shooting.
Noor, 31, has in the past been personally praised by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.
He also holds a degree in administration and economics.
Minneapolis Chief of Police Janeé Harteau issued a statement on Monday calling the death tragic.
‘I have many of the same questions and it is why we immediately asked for an external and independent investigation into the officer-involved shooting death,’ said Harteau.
‘I also want to assure you that I understand why so many people have so many questions at this point. I’ve asked for the investigation to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can.’
On Monday morning the heartbroken stepson of Damond appeared outside his home and had harsh words for Officer Noor.
‘Why? Why did you do it?,’ said Zach Damond.
‘He has no idea the impact that he had on thousands of people. No idea.’
‘I hope that he wakes up every single day and thinks about it, and then I hope that he thinks about how he can be a better person because that’s what she did every single day. And if you don’t do that, then you’re not even living, either, man.’
Both Noor and his partner, the driver of the squad car, have been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation.
On Saturday night, Damond had called 911 to attend a noise and possible assault in the alley, and was reportedly speaking to the two officers through the drivers side window when the officer in the front passenger seat shot her through the drivers side door.
Neighbours told The Star Tribune they came out of their home to investigate the flashing lights and saw police trying to revive Ms Damond, who was lying on the ground.
Ms Damond had a well-known stance against guns, and there was no way she would have been armed on Saturday night, her friend Hannah, 21, told the paper.
She also explained Damond (nee Ruszczyk), who had already taken her fiance’s last name often spoke about the benefits of Australia’s tight gun control.
Despite her misgivings, Damond had elected to give up her life in Sydney for one in Minneapolis, where she lived with her fiance Don, who she described as the ‘amazing, handsome hilarious, rockstar love of my life’.
Damond was due to marry fiance Don Damond, a former musician, in August, and become a step-mother to his 22-year-old son Zach.
At the time of the shooting Mr Damond, the vice president of Little Six Casino, was away on business.
Her soon-to-be stepson Zach was reportedly also not at the home on Saturday night, returning on Sunday to discover the crime scene.
And just hours after the shooting he spoke to a local activist group, slamming police over the death of Ms Damond – who he called his ‘best friend’.
‘Basically my mum’s dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know,’ Zach Damond said.
‘I demand answers. If anybody can help, just call police and demand answers. I’m so done with all this violence. It’s so much bulls**t. America sucks.
‘She was a very passionate woman, she thought something bad was happening – and next thing you know they take my best friend’s life.’
Damond’s Australian-based family released a statement through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Monday afternoon.
‘This is a very difficult time for our family. We are trying to come to terms with this tragedy and to understand why this has happened,’ the statement read.
‘We will not make any further comment or statement and ask that you respect our privacy.’
Damond attended Manly High School and the University of Sydney.
Her friend Matt Omo, an Australian, told the ABC he hoped something positive could come from the tragedy.
‘I only hope this evolves into something that can make a positive impact for the world,’ he said.
Family friend Julia Reed addressed media on Monday, and said the woman would be ‘undoubtedly’ very missed.
‘She was treasured and loved – we will miss her dreadfully,’ she said.
Ms Reed, who had known Damond for 32 years, said she would miss: ‘[Justine’s] energy, intelligence, and the joy she brought to my life’.
Friend Marcus Ritchie mourned ‘one of the world’s most caring and sensitive souls’, and called her ‘a true inspiration to us all’ in a Facebook post.
‘There is no way to justify this incident as Justine Ruszczyk was such a beautiful person,’ he wrote.
‘There will be a lot to answer for!’
Originally trained as a vet at the University of Sydney, she was ‘supporting individuals and organizations to discover the power and potential within their own brains and hearts.’
Ms Damond regularly held sessions at the Lake Harriet Spritual Centre, with many of her talks recorded and uploaded to YouTube.
She grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches, with her father John the owner of a Dymocks bookstore at Warringah Mall and a prominent member of the community.
Hundreds gathered outside the Damond home in the hours after her death to hold a vigil for the woman, with her neighbours remembering a ‘beautiful light’.
‘This woman was a beautiful light, she was a healer, she was loved, she should be alive – she should still be here,’ one friend said.
Pictures showed a large group of people holding hands in a drive way, with colourful chalk drawings on the pavement – including a heart with ‘Justine’ written inside, and a red and a yellow rose laid on either side.
Her stepson Zach shared images from the event in his Instagram story, writing: ‘people really showed love, thank you’.
One image showed a sign which read: ‘Why did you shoot and kill our neighbour and friend?’.
The placard was surrounded by flowers, candles and a letter.
Nearby, a tea towel with an image of Australia was hung on a brick wall.
In a statement, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said an investigation was in its early stages, but that police did not have their body cameras on during the incident.
Less than a week earlier it was revealed that officers across the city were using body cameras at what appeared to be a low amounts, despite their high-profile roll out.
Under Minneapolis Police Department policy, officers ‘should manually activate their PVR (portable video recorder) to Record Mode when reasonably safe and practical’ in situations including ‘suspicious person stops’ and ‘crimes in progress’.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said she was disturbed by the shooting and called on BCA to release information about Damond’s death as quickly as possible.
‘As mayor of our city, a wife, and a grandmother, I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by what occurred last night,’ Mayor Hodges said, the Star Tribune reports.
‘There are still many questions about what took place, and while the investigation is still in its early stages, I am asking the BCA to release as much information, as quickly as they are able to.
‘My thoughts are now with everyone affected by this tragic incident, especially the deceased woman and her family.’