Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor on Tuesday turned himself in on a warrant and was booked into Hennepin County Jail on felony charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter related to the fatal shooting of Minneapolis resident Justine Ruszczyk Damond last summer. Read the criminal complaint against Noor here.
Here are some questions and answers about the latest news, what we know and what comes next.
What are the charges officer Noor faces?
Under Minnesota statute, third-degree murder applies to individuals who unintentionally cause the death of another by “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”
To convict Noor of third-degree murder, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that that Noor’s intentional act caused Damond’s death, was eminently dangerous to human beings and was performed without regard for human life. However, this intentional act may not have been specifically intended to cause death or directed at the person who was killed, but was committed recklessly with the knowledge that someone may be killed and without regard for that possibility. The phrase “depraved mind” in the statute is somewhat nebulous and subject to interpretation. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court attempted to define it in the 1972 State v. Mytych case as: “A mind which has become inflamed by emotions, disappointments, and hurt to such degree that it ceases to care for human life and safety is a depraved mind.” Prosecutors may ask that jury instructions substitute the words "reckless conduct," which is typically done in Minnesota, attorney Ryan Pacyga said.
Under state law, on-duty officers can use deadly force to protect themselves or their partners from apparent death or great bodily harm. And a 1989 Supreme Court decision requires that officers’ use-of-force actions be viewed in the moment, not with 20/20 hindsight.
Noor was also charged with second-degree manslaughter, which is defined in statute as when a person causes the death of another through culpable negligence, “whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.” There are additional circumstances that could qualify as second-degree manslaughter that are not relevant to this case.
To convict Noor of second-degree manslaughter, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Noor’s intentional actions, which he may not have been intended to be harmful, caused Damond's death through culpable negligence and would be recognized by a reasonable person to have a strong probability of causing death, permanent disfigurement, permanent or protracted loss of bodily function, or other serious bodily harm.
What penalties do the charges carry?
If convicted of third-degree murder, Noor could face a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison; or up to ten years in prison and/or a fine of $20,000 if convicted of second-degree manslaughter.
Did we learn any new details from Noor’s criminal complaint?
According to the charging document, Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity, told investigators that he was startled when he heard Damond approaching the car in the dark and “perceived his life was in danger” when he drew his weapon, immediately before Noor fired his gun. This will likely be pivotal in Noor’s defense against the third-degree murder charge.
Is Noor cooperating with the investigation?
No. Noor has not spoken to or cooperated with investigators, as is his right under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Harrity and other officers have been interviewed by investigators or appeared before the grand jury.
Was the shooting recorded by police body cameras?
No. Neither officer had their body camera turned on at the time of the shooting, although they turned them immediately afterward.
Why did Freeman convene a grand jury?
Initially, Freeman said he alone would decide whether to charge Noor, but later convened a grand jury to gather additional evidence. Freeman said the grand jury was needed to compel testimony from Minneapolis police officers who refused to cooperate with the investigation into Damond's death. The grand jury concluded its investigation Monday.
Is Noor still a Minneapolis police officer?
No. After the charges were announced, Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo said Noor was no longer employed with the department, effective Tuesday. Arradondo declined to say whether Noor resigned or was fired. The Minneapolis police union said Noor was fired.
What happens next?
Noor made his first court appearance Wednesday. He was released after posting $400,000 bail set by Judge Kathryn Quainance on the condition that he turn over his passport, surrender his firearms and ammunition and refrain from contacting Harrity, the lone witness to the shooting. Noor's next court appearance is scheduled for May 8.
What do we know about the night Justine Ruszczyk Damond was killed?
Damond, 40, a native of Australia, was shot and killed July 15 after calling police to report a possible assault behind her south Minneapolis home. Harrity and Noor responded to the call in their squad car.
According to the criminal complaint against Noor, the officers arrived to the alley behind Damond's home at 5024 Washburn Avenue South. Their headlights were off and the computer screen dimmed, but the spotlight was on. Harrity, who was not wearing his seat belt, removed the safety hood of his holster over his gun before turning into the alley. Harrity said he heard what he believed to be a dog before reaching the rear of Damond's home but did not get out of the car to investigate. He did not hear other noises. The squad car slowed to 2 mph but never stopped.
As the squad neared the end of the alley at 51st Street, nearly 2 minutes after arriving, Noor entered "Code 4" into the squad computer, indicating they were safe and needed no assistance.
Neither officers' cameras were on at the time of the shooting, but both turned them on immediately afterward. Harrity began CPR, with Noor taking over afterward. Paramedics arrived at 11:49 p.m. but Damond died at the scene of a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
While Noor has declined to give a statement, Harrity later said that before the shooting he and Noor had cleared the call and were at the end of the alley waiting for a bicyclist to pass. Harrity had replaced the safety hood on his holster, and Noor had cleared the call on the computer.
Five to 10 seconds later, Harrity heard a voice, a thump somewhere behind him on the squad car, "and caught a glimpse of a person's head and shoulders outside his window."
Charges said he was not able to articulate what the noise was, how loud it was, what the person's voice sounded like, or what the person said. He characterized it as "a muffled voice or a whisper." He estimated the person was two feet away and he couldn't see their hands, or weapons.
"Officer Harrity said he was startled and said 'Oh sh*t or Oh Jesus.' He said he perceived that his life was in danger, reached for his gun, unholstered it, and held it to his rib cage while pointing it downward. He said from the driver's seat he had a better vantage point to determine a threat than Officer Noor would have had from the passenger seat."
Harrity then heard a sound "that sounded like a light bulb dropping on the floor and saw a flash." After first checking to see whether he had been shot, he looked to his right and saw Noor with his right arm extended toward Harrity but did not see a gun. He then looked out of his window and saw Damond, "who put her hands on a gunshot wound on the left side of her abdomen and said 'I'm dying' or 'I'm dead.' " charges said.
"Officer Harrity said that once he saw the woman's hands he believed her to no longer be a threat and he got out of the squad car."
Noor got out still armed and Harrity told him to reholster his gun and turn his body camera on.
This post has been updated.