BBC News, May 1, 2019
A former policeman in the US state of Minnesota has been found guilty of murdering an unarmed Australian woman.
Mohamed Noor shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond as she approached his patrol car to report a possible rape behind her Minneapolis home on 15 July 2017.
Noor, 33, testified last week that he opened fire because he feared he and his partner were being ambushed.
Ms Damond, 40, a yoga instructor from Sydney, was engaged and was due to marry a month after the shooting.
The death drew international criticism and Australia’s prime minister at the time, Malcolm Turnbull, said it was “inexplicable”.
Noor was handcuffed and taken into custody immediately upon being convicted by a jury on Tuesday of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
He was acquitted of the most serious charge of second-degree murder with intent to kill.
The trial heard the victim, a dual US-Australian citizen, lay dying from a gunshot wound just over a minute after ending a phone conversation with her fiance.
She had told Don Damond that police had just arrived after she called them to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind their home. No such attack was ever found to have occurred.
Noor took the stand last week to say he recalled seeing a blonde female in a pink T-shirt approach his squad car on the night of the shooting.
He said he believed there was an imminent threat after he heard a loud bang and saw Ms Damond with her right arm raised.
Noor said his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, shouted “Oh Jesus!” and fumbled with his gun in its holster before “he turned to me with fear in his eyes”.
The defendant said he “had to make a split-second decision” and shot Ms Damond across his partner through the car window.
Noor told the court that upon realising he had shot an unarmed woman he “felt like my whole world came crashing down”.
Prosecutors questioned whether the loud bang was real, pointing out that neither Noor nor his partner initially mentioned anything at the scene about hearing such a noise.
Ms Damond’s fingerprints were not found on the squad car, the court heard.
She had moved to the Midwestern city to marry her boyfriend, Don Damond, and had adopted his surname ahead of their nuptials.
Mr Damond was in Las Vegas, Nevada, when investigators called him to say she was dead.
He told the court he learned from a second phone call that she had been shot by a police officer.
Mr Damond said contacting her family in Australia to tell them the news was the “worst phone call” he ever had to make.
Noor is a former Somalian refugee whose family moved to the US and settled in Minneapolis.
He joined the police force in 2015, but was sacked after being charged in the shooting.
The fallout also cost Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau her job and was a factor in the election defeat of the city’s mayor a few months later.
The Damond family have filed a civil lawsuit against the city and several police officers seeking $50m (£38m) in damages.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo apologised to Damond’s friends and family in a statement released after Tuesday’s verdict was read.
“This was indeed a sad and tragic incident that has affected family, friends, neighbours, the City of Minneapolis and people around the world, most significantly in her home country of Australia,” he said.