Friday April, 27, 2018, The US policeman who shot dead Australian Justine Damond Ruszczyk will plead not guilty, arguing that he killed her in self-defence.
Court documents filed today say that former Minneapolis policeman Mohamed Noor will use the arguments of self-defence and reasonable force to defend himself against charge of third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. He faces up to 25 years jail if convicted.
Mr Noor shot 40-year-old Ms Rusyzczyk at point black range on July 15 last year after she approached his police car in her pyjamas, after having called 911 for help about a suspected sexual assault in the alley behind her house.
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The decision to plead not guilty sets up a major trial in Minneapolis. It will be a challenge for prosecutors to secure a conviction against the 32-year-old Mr Noor. No policeman in Minnesota has ever been convicted of a wrongful fatal shooting.
But Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has accused Mr Noor, who is of Somali heritage, of “recklessly and intentionally fire his handgun from the passenger seat in disregard for human life”.
“There is no evidence that officer Noor encountered a threat, appreciated a threat, investigated a threat and confirmed a threat that justified his decision to use deadly force,” he said.
“A person sitting in a passenger seat of a squad car takes a gun, hears a noise, maybe sees some object … he reaches across in front of his partner, shoots a gun at an object that he can’t see. That’s evidence of a depraved mind in my view.”
The document filed in court today and signed by Mr Noor’s lawyer Thomas Plunkett, did not elaborate further on the case or on Mr Noor’s defence.
Mr Noor, who is no longer a police officer, is currently free after posting $US500,000 bail.
He has refused to give evidence but his partner on that night Matthew Harrity has said that Ms Ruszczyk startled the officers as their car was emerging out of an alleyway.
Officer Harrity said he suddenly ‘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.’
According to the charge sheet: “Officer Harrity said he was startled and said ‘oh shit,’ or ‘oh Jesus’. He said he perceived his life was in danger.”
Ms Ruszczyk’s family in Australia and her American fiance Don Damond have called on authorities to prosecute Mr Noor for killing Ms Ruszczyk.
The closest Minneapolis authorities have come to prosecuting a policeman for a fatal killing was last year when it tried officer Jeronimo Yanez, after he had shot 32-year-old Philando Castile, an African American, seven times as he sat in his car after being pulled over in 2016.
But the officer was eventually acquitted using the same self-defence argument that Mr Noor will use.
By Cameron Stewart