Ex-Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot woman testifies he feared for his, partner’s lives

Mohamed Noor took the stand in his own defense saying that he made a "split-second" decision and did not realize the shooting victim was unarmed

Mohamed Noor
Former Minneapolis Police officer Mohamed Noor leaves the Hennepin County Government Center during a break from his trial on April 1, 2019 in Minneapolis. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

A Black former Minneapolis police officer on trial for fatally shooting a white Australian woman broke his two-year silence on the incident and testified Thursday that he feared the victim was a threat to him and his partner.

Mohamed Noor is charged with fatally shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond on July 15, 2017, as he and his partner responded to a call regarding a possible sex assault.

READ MORE: Prosecutors accuse Minneapolis police supervisor of missteps in Noor trial

“I had to make a split-second decision,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Noor testified in Hennepin County Court.

“You did not see anything in her hands?” assistant county attorney Amy Sweasy asked the former officer.

“No, ma’am,” he responded.

Noor testified that he and his partner, Matthew Harrity, were driving down an alley as they responded to a 911 call from Damond about a possible sexual assault behind her home. Noor was in the passenger seat. While parked at the end of the alley, the officers heard a loud bang from the passenger side of the vehicle, he said.

Noor told the courtroom that Harrity, who normally is very calm, shouted “Oh Jesus!” and reached for his gun, which got stuck in the holster.

“He turned to me with fear in his eyes,” the Star Tribune reported Noor testified.

The former officer then said he saw a woman outside of Harrity’s window raise her arm.

“I fired one shot,” he said. “The threat was gone. She could have a weapon.”

READ MORE: Partner of ex-Minneapolis cop on trial in shooting says he did not assess situation properly

Noor shared with the courtroom his anguish when realizing he’d shot an unarmed person. He and Harrity helped ease her to the ground as she fell back. The officers performed CPR, but Damond was pronounced dead at the scene.

“It felt like my whole world came crashing down,” Noor said. “I had trouble breathing.”

Noor told defense attorney Thomas Plunkett that he’d never seen his partner so scared before.

“My intent was to stop the threat and save my partner’s life,” he testified.

Testimony was to continue Friday in the case.