The family of Mohammed Noor – the Police officer who shot dead Australian Justine Damond – on the doorstep of their home in Minneapolis, speaks out.
Justine Damond’s family are devastated after her shooting in Minneapolis. Picture: AAP Image/Facebook
JUSTINE Damond’s family have one wish, but are in limbo until the police officer that shot her gives his statement. They won’t have to wait too much longer.
Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor who fatally shot Ms Damond, 40, will be compelled to give a statement to his department as part of an internal investigation.
Officer Noor hasn’t spoken with state investigators and doesn’t have to.
Howevever, the police department’s internal affairs unit can compel him to give a statement as part of its own investigation, and fire him if he refuses, said Minneapolis defense lawyer Joe Friedberg, who isn’t involved in the case.
That statement cannot be used against him in any criminal investigation.
Mr Noor hasn’t provided his explanation for what happened on Saturday when he fired a shot from the passenger seat of a squad car, past his partner in the driver’s seat and killed Ms Damond who was standing outside the vehicle.
According to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, told investigators he was driving in the alley with all of the vehicle’s lights off when he was startled by a loud noise.
Harrity said Damond appeared at the driver’s side window “immediately afterward” and Noor fired, striking her in the abdomen. She died at the scene. Assistant Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said an internal use-of-force investigation has been opened, which is standard any time an officer discharges a weapon.
Mr Noor’s family have declared his innocence. Picture: City of Minneapolis via APSource:AP
JUSTINE’S FAMILY HAVE ONE WISH
In a statement sent to the media today, the Ruszczyk family said they just wanted to bring her home, so they could have a proper farewell in her hometown thanked those following Justine’s story for repescting their privacy.
“Our family thank you for your interest in the story of our beloved Justine, whom we lost so tragically last weekend,” their statement read.
“We are still trying to come to terms with this tragedy and we are struggling to understand how and why this could happen. These are very early days and the family, in Australia and in the USA are devastated by our loss.
“We are in constant contact with the Australian Government, and representatives of the US Government and Minnesota State authorities. We want to see the investigation come to a conclusion, as soon as possible, so we have some resolution to the tragedy.
“All we want to do is bring Justine home to Australia to farewell her in her hometown among family and friends. In the meantime, we ask that you give us time to grieve in private and to support each other at this very difficult time.
“We will be in touch with you as soon as we feel, as a family, that the time is right to have further discussions with you. Again, we thank you for respecting our privacy.”
Family and friends join John Ruszczyk and family in a sunrise vigil on Freshwater beach after Justine Ruszczyk Damond was shot by police in Minneapolis. Picture: John GraingerSource:News Corp Australia
JUSTINE’S LAST CALLS TO HER FIANCE
Ms Damond’s family have hired a high-profile lawyer who says police claims of an ambush by the Australian woman ‘have no basis in fact’ as her 911 call was released.
Lawyer Robert Bennett told CBS that Ms Damond’s family does not want Officer Mohamed Noor to continue being a police officer and are considering a civil lawsuit over her death.
“This is an unbelieveable situation,” Mr Bennett told CBS.
“The person who called 911 was shot in her pyjamas.
“Justine obviously wasn’t armed and there is wasn’t any reason she should have been perceived to be.
Mr Bennett hit out at claims the police officers involved feared an ambush.
“It’s ludicrous,” he said.
“It is disinformation being put out there for … for I don’t know what. It doesn’t have any basis in fact.”
Mr Bennett said Ms Damond called her fiance, Don Damond, who was away, twice after hearing the noises behind her house.
“He recommended that she call 911,” Mr Bennett said.
That news came as Jordan Kushner, the lawyer for Teresa Graham, a woman who was the subject of a complaint against Mr Noor, who gunned down Ms Damond, said the killing was another example of how Noor had failed those who had called on him for help.
Lawyer Robert Bennett, who is representing the Damond family. Picture: CBSSource:Supplied
Ms Damond’s family hired Mr Bennett who represented Philando Castile’s family in pursuing compensation after he became a victim of a fatal police shooting.
Castile was shot and killed by Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez in July last year.
He was acquitted of charges of manslaughter and the dangerous discharge of a firearm in June 16, but was fired on the same day.
With Mr Bennett representing them the Castile family settled a US$2.995 million (A$3.76 million) lawsuit over the shooting.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered his condolences to her father in a private phone call.
“I spoke to Justine’s dad yesterday about it and gave him our love and sympathy,” he told Neil Mitchell on 3AW radio.
Police transcripts show that Justine Damond made two 911 calls before she was fatally shot by US police.
“SOUNDS LIKE SEX”: JUSTINE’S 911 CALL
Ms Damond feared someone was being raped behind her house in south Minneapolis and called police at 11.27pm on Saturday night, local time, to report the incident.
The Australian life coach called 911 again eight minutes later to make sure police were coming.
“Hi, I can hear someone out the back and I’m not sure she’s having sex or being raped,” Ms Damond said at the start of the call.
“I think she just yelled out ‘help’, but it’s difficult; the sound has been going on for a while, but I think, I don’t think she’s enjoying it.”
People gather next to a memorial for Justine Damond near where she was shot and killed by police. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
Ms Damond, 40, was told police were on the way but called again as she became increasingly concerned about the incident.
“Hi, I just reported one, but no one’s here and was wondering if they got the address wrong,” Ms Damond said at the start of the second call.
“You’re hearing a female screaming?” the operator asked.
“Yes, along behind the house.” Ms Damond replied.
The operated checked the details and said police were on their way.
In an incident report released by police, Officers Matthew Harrity and arrived Mohamed Noor arrived in their squad car in the alleyway behind Ms Damonds’ house at 11.39pm, four minutes after the second call.
Soon after officers reported a shooting at the scene and called for backup from emergency services.
COPS’ CLAIMS “REASONABLE”
A lawyer for cop Matthew Harrity says ‘it’s certainly reasonable’ that his client and his partner thought they were being ambushed when Justine Damond was shot.
Fred Bruno, Mr Harrity’s lawyer, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his client and Mohamed Noor, who shot Damond, may have been spooked by a “loud noise” before the Australian woman approached the police car.
Family and friends gather on Freshwater Beach following a candlelight vigil, where they threw hundreds of pink flowers into the ocean for Justine Damond in Sydney. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
“It’s certainly reasonable to assume that any police officer would be concerned about a possible ambush under these circumstances,” Mr Bruno said. “It was only a few weeks ago when a female NYPD cop and mother of twins was executed in her car in a very similar scenario.”
Mr Bruno was referring to New York City police officer Miosotis Familia, 48, who was killed earlier this month by a mentally ill man as she sat in her police car.
Noor’s lawyer, Thomas Plunkett, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Justine Damond made a 911 call before she was shot dead. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
TURNBULL SPEAKS TO DAMOND’S FATHER
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spoken with Ms Damond’s father John Ruszczyk to offer his condolences over her death.
As local authorities continue to investigate the officer-involved shooting, Mr Turnbull again described the death as “inexplicable”.
“I spoke to Justine’s dad yesterday about it and gave him our love and sympathy,” Prime Minister Turnbull told Neil Mitchell on 3AW radio today.
John Ruszczyk at the sunrise vigil on Freshwater beach for his daughter Justine yesterday. Picture: John GraingerSource:News Corp Australia
NOOR’S FAMILY COMMENTS ON TRAGEDY
The family of Damond’s killer declared his innocence, saying Noor had mistakenly shot her dead.
“We feel so bad about this, we are traumatised ourselves. It’s so unfortunate,” a family member said.
“If you wait for the investigation you’ll know it was an honest and sincere event that transpired. Until then we can’t really say anything.”
The declaration came as a preliminary investigation by Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension revealed Noor and his fellow officer had been startled by a loud noise in the seconds before she approached their car and was shot.
Mr Harrity, 26, who was driving the Minneapolis police car responding to Damond’s 911 call for help late Saturday night, described the last moments of Damond’s life to investigators.
Don Damond, Justine’s fiance, hugs a neighbour after speaking to the media in Minneapolis. Picture: Jules Ameel/News Corp AustraliaSource:Supplied
He said the loud noise — which was possibly fireworks, according to police radio — came just as Damond walked to the squad car he was driving, around the corner from her home.
Officer Noor, 31, fired through the door of the car, and killed Ms Damond, 40, with a single gunshot to the abdomen.
Justine Damond opens up on some tough times she went through in a recent presentation. Courtesy: YourLHSC
Harrity was reportedly stunned when his partner opened fire.
Friends of Noor’s told the Daily Mail that he was “startled” by Damond when he opened fire.
His version of events, told by friends on the basis of anonymity, lined up with what Harrity told investigators.
However he has been criticised for not providing a statement to investigators.
Justine Damond and partner Don Damond were weeks away from getting married. Picture: SuppledSource:Supplied
News Corp spoke to half a dozen residents who were in their houses around the crime scene on Saturday night and none had heard the gunshot or any other loud noises that sounded like fireworks. One resident a block from the scene, waiter Tom McConnell, said however it was common during the current summer holidays for fireworks left over from the recent July 4 celebrations to be set off on weekend nights.
Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who fatally shot Justine. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
Noor — who is the subject of two open complaints incurred in his two years on the job — has so far refused to be formally interviewed, and under federal law, he cannot be compelled to speak to investigators.
“Officer Noor’s attorney did not provide clarification on when, if ever, an interview would be possible,” the BCA said.
It came as the lawyer for another woman who called police for help says his client was taken to a mental health hospital by Noor, who tried to have her involuntarily committed.
Teresa Graham’s lawyer Mr Kushner told The Australian that Damond’s killing was another example of how Noor had failed those who had called on him for help.
“(Officer) Noor grabbed (the) plaintiff’s phone from her hand and then grabbed her right wrist and upper arm, thereby immobilising her,’’ her court statement says. “The plaintiff had not in any way physically resisted the police officers.’
They took her to a hospital to involuntarily admit her but the hospital deemed her fine to go.
Minneapolis Mayor Besty Hodges last night called on Noor to explain himself.
“What happened? How is it that Justine is dead? We have more information tonight than we had when we woke up,” said Mayor Hodges.
There are still many unanswered questions about Justine’s death. Picture: Stephen Govel/www.stephengovel.com via APSource:AP
“We don’t yet have all the answers. It’s frustrating to have some of the picture but not all of it. We cannot compel Officer Noor to make a statement — I wish we could.”
The investigation has been complicated by the fact the officers’ body cameras and their vehicle’s dash cam was not filming during the shooting. The lack of evidence prompted investigators to yesterday appeal for a mystery witness, described as a man aged 18-35 on a bike, who was riding past and saw the shooting.
There was embarrassment for the police department when Deputy Chief Medaria Arradondo revealed he was not aware Officer Noor was subject to investigation.
He was asked why, given the two open investigations into Mohammed Noor’s conduct, he remained in front line duties.
“At this time, I am not aware of the conduct that you are speaking of so I wouldn’t be able to talk about it right now,” he said.
Henepin County Attorney Mike Freeman is considering whether to charge Noor with murder, a decision he said could take months.
“We have to prove in order to charge a police officer whether they committed a crime and the facts show that they committed said crime,” he said.
Mayor Betsy Hodges and Assistant Police Chief Medaria Arradondo address the latest developments in the death of Justine Damond. Picture: Star Tribune via APSource:AP
“We don’t nearly have the information yet and it will be quite a period of time until we have it.”
Both Noor and Harrity are on paid administrative leave. Noor has moved from his modest apartment in northwest Minneapolis to his nearby parents’ home for support, while Harrity remains with close family at his semirural home in neighbouring Wisconsin.
His lawyer Fred Bruno said Harrity, a policeman for just a year, is “doing as well as he can under the circumstances”.
“This is a white hot case,” he told News Corp Australia, adding Harrity has “very difficult waters to navigate”.
“My client is co-operating with the investigation.”
Family and friends were devastated at the vigil. Picture: John GraingerSource:News Corp Australia
He said Harrity was feeling concerned and “isolated”.
“Every time a cop gets involved in a shooting, whether its deadly or any use of deadly force, it results in an investigation which makes …. him or her very much feel like a defendant.
“Its isolating its nerve-racking you know they lose their privacy and sense of security its no fun to go through, and if people think the cops are trigger happy they’ve got something else coming — it’s not a fun process to go through.”
Harrity and Noor are banned from speaking to each other as well as any other police officers during the investigation have “to maintain the purist of his testimony”.
“It’s very isolating to be in a situation like this, you don’t have the outpouring of support the other side will have,” he said.
“I’m not saying whether any cop deserves sympathy or not, they are just doing their job, but it’s a very difficult time for officers when they get involved in these situations.
“It’s really hard and you know the cops are under scrutiny now, and they are getting ambushed, they are getting indicted and they are kind of the target du jour, and hopefully this phase will pass but it’s pretty deep right now.”
Friends and family of Justine Damond gather for a sunrise vigil on Freshwater Beach in Sydney.
Originally published as Why Justine’s killer can’t hide forever
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