The city of Minneapolis has agreed to temporarily loan a police SUV to lawyers for fired cop Mohamed Noor, so long as they bring it back without a scratch.
“First, the City objects to any destructive testing being conducted on an MPD squad car,” deputy city attorney Erik Nilsson wrote in a letter to the court, which was posted Friday. “An MPD squad car is depreciable property owned by the City and, accordingly, the City objects to any destructive testing that would cause damage to or alteration of the squad car, or result in any possible costs, expenses, repairs, or loss of use of the squad car.”
It was one of five conditions set by city officials in agreeing to the defense’s request to examine a police squad car similar to the one Noor was riding in when he fired the shot that killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017.
Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance approved the request Friday, writing in an order that Noor’s attorneys, Tom Plunkett and Peter Wold, and their investigator, William O’Keefe, would be allowed to inspect the squad at or near the Fifth Precinct headquarters, under close supervision.
Over a period of four hours Friday evening, the order granted Noor’s defense team the ability to photograph, measure and independently inspect the Ford Explorer, so long as it was not driven by anyone other than an authorized MPD employee. Attorneys were not given permission to take the vehicle to the shooting site for testing.
Quaintance also barred the defense from interviewing the supervising police officers.
Noor was fired in March, the same day prosecutors announced charges against him for shooting Damond, after responding to her 911 call on July 15, 2017, to report a possible rape in the alley behind her southwest Minneapolis home.
Prosecutors say Noor fired past his partner, Matthew Harrity, who was behind the wheel, hitting Damond as she approached their SUV.
Noor’s defense team has requested access to the car to perform its own independent analysis, contending that the state had “failed to preserve the squad car.” Their motion requested access to the vehicle on Friday, when the moon would be in the same phase as it was on the night Damond was killed.
The former officer’s attorneys have argued self-defense and indicated that he intends to plead not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. He remains free on bail.
Noor is the first police officer statewide in recent memory to be charged with murder for an on-duty killing.
A trial date is set for April 1, with a hearing to clear up any remaining pretrial motions scheduled for early March.