Attorneys for Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor want to examine the squad car from which he fired the fatal shot at Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017.
Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance is considering Noor’s team request to access to the car “as needed to perform independent tests.”
Noor, who was fired in March, was responding to Damond’s 911 call just before midnight on July 15, 2017, about a possible rape in the alley behind her southwest Minneapolis home. Prosecutors say Noor fired past his partner, who was behind the wheel, as Damond approached the SUV’s driver-side window.
Noor has not entered a plea on charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter, but his attorneys have indicated that he will plead not guilty by reason of self-defense. He remains free on bail.
This week, Noor’s attorneys alleged that the state had “failed to preserve the squad car” and sought access to perform their own independent analysis, including taking measurements. His counsel requested access to the vehicle on Friday specifically because the moon would be in the same phase as it was on the night Damond was killed.
Noor’s attorney, Peter Wold, declined to comment on the planned testing or the importance of moon phases when reached Thursday night.
Bob Bennett, the attorney representing the Ruszczyk family, dismissed the idea that Noor’s team might be planning to recreate the shooting scene in the south Minneapolis alley.
“That would only make sense when conditions can be replicated,” he said. “Obviously, they can’t be replicated in December when there’s no leaves on the trees and there’s snow on the ground. ... It’s all silliness.”
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.
He also faces a $50 million lawsuit filed by Damond’s father, which accuses him and his former partner, Matthew Harrity, of conspiring to cover up evidence by failing to turn on their body cameras and by later hiding behind a “blue wall of silence” as the case was being investigated.
That suit, in which the city is also a co-defendant, is on hold pending the criminal trial.