Justine Damond: US police officer guilty of murder after shooting Australian yoga teacher trying to report suspected rape

'This was a tragic shooting that did not have to happen and should not have happened,' says prosecutor 

Australian mother shot and killed by police in Minnesota, US for unknown reasons

A US police officer has been convicted of murder after shooting to death an unarmed woman who approached his car to report a possible rape.

Mohamed Noor was also convicted of manslaughter over the July 2017 death of Justine Damond, a 40-year-old with dual American-Australian citizenship.

Noor, 33, had told a jury a loud bang on his squad car scared him and his partner as they drove down an alley in Minneapolis and he opened fire "to stop the threat" after he saw a woman appear at his partner's window with a raised arm.

Prosecutors questioned whether that bang had really happened, noting neither officer had mentioned it to investigators at the scene, and criticised Noor for shooting without seeing a weapon or Damond's hands.

Noor, a police officer since 2015, was acquitted of the most serious charge of intentional second-degree murder.

He faces up to 15 years for third-degree murder and nearly five years for manslaughter, although judges are not bound by state sentencing guidelines and can impose much lower sentences.

Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman said: "This was a tragic shooting that did not have to happen and should not have happened.

"It does not give us pleasure to call out police wrongdoing."

Damond, a yoga instructor and life coach from Sydney, was killed a month before she was due to marry.

Her father said he was “satisfied” by Noor’s conviction, which he said capped “a painful journey” for their family.

Justine Damond was killed a month before she was due to marry 

It is rare for US police officers to be convicted when they plead self-defence.

Noor is the first Minnesota officer found guilty of murder, prompting some to question whether race played a role in the verdict. He is a black Somali refugee and Damond was white.

John Thompson, an activist and friend of Philando Castile, a black man killed in Minnesota in 2016 by a Latino police officer who was later acquitted, said: "Officer Noor was going to jail no matter what, because he's a black man who shot a white woman in the state of Minnesota."

But Mr Freeman said: “Race has never been a factor in any of my decisions and never will be. We look at each case based on the facts and the evidence and the law that's in front of us. And I will stand by what we have done."

Asked how Noor's case was different from others in which white officers were not charged, the attorney added: "The evidence showed that the officer acted unreasonably."

Mr Ruszczyk said the jury's decision on Tuesday reflected respect for the rule of law and the sanctity of life.

"Justine was killed by a police officer, an agent of the state," he said. "We believe he was properly charged with a crime."

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Mr Ruszczyk also bitterly criticised police, saying his family believes "the conviction was reached despite the active resistance of a number of Minneapolis police officers, including the head of the union, and either active resistance or gross incompetence" by state investigators early on.

Minnesota's third-degree murder charge requires a jury to believe a victim was killed through a dangerous act "without regard for human life but without intent to cause" death. Second-degree manslaughter is defined as creating unreasonable risk of causing death or great bodily harm to another through culpable negligence.

Additional reporting by agencies

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in