Minneapolis police officer Matthew Harrity testified Thursday before a grand jury in the fatal police shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in an alley in south Minneapolis last summer.
Wearing his police uniform, Harrity walked into the Hennepin County Government Center shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday with attorney Fred Bruno. It was unclear how long his testimony lasted during the secret proceedings.
Harrity was there to shed some light on what he remembers from the night Damond died after being shot by his partner, Mohamed Noor. The two officers were responding to a 911 call Damond made to report a possible assault behind her south Minneapolis home.
Her death sent shock waves from Minneapolis to Damond’s native Australia, whose prime minister called for swift justice.
Noor has so far declined to speak with investigators from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Harrity previously told the BCA that the two were startled by a loud sound moments before Noor fired his gun, striking Damond, who approached the driver’s side window of their squad car, according to authorities. Noor’s shot struck Damond through the open driver’s side window.
The local police union has said that between 35 and 40 Minneapolis police officers have been subpoenaed to testify, and that many of them were involved in Noor’s training.
Under state law, grand juries have the power to issue indictments. The panels, which meet in secret behind closed doors, can also require people to testify by issuing subpoenas, though witnesses can refuse to talk by invoking their Fifth Amendment right not to testify to avoid self-incrimination.
In a reversal, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced last month that he was convening a grand jury to gather evidence in the 2017 shooting. But, he insisted he would still make the final decision about whether to charge Noor.
Freeman had previously pledged to do away with the decades-old practice of using grand juries in officer-involved shootings, saying he wanted to achieve transparency. He later admitted the secretive citizen panels were one of the “biggest regrets” of his tenure as the county’s top prosecutor.
Bruno and a spokesman for the county attorney’s office declined to comment.
Freeman, who initially promised to reach a charging decision by the end of last year, hasn’t offered an updated timetable.