April 27, 2019
Defendant gives evidence about cadet training, saying: ‘Action is better than reaction’
Mohamed Noor outside court, where the former police officer gave his first public statement about the shooting of Justine Damond. Photograph: Brian Peterson/AP
By Australian Associated Press
A former Minneapolis police officer on trial for the fatal shooting of an Australian life coach, who was unarmed and had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home, has testified in court.
He told the court about his training for possible ambushes, saying he had learned that reacting too late “means … you die”.
Mohamed Noor refused to talk to investigators after the July 2017 shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. His testimony from the witness box was his first public statement since her death.
He described the unorthodox path he took to becoming an officer – he was working as a pharmaceutical analyst before deciding to switch careers – then detailed his 29-week cadet training in 2015.
Noor was fired from the force soon after being charged. His lawyers have said he had been spooked by a noise on his squad car right before the shooting and feared an ambush.
The former officer described “counter-ambush” training that included scenarios such as two officers in a squad car, doing routine tasks, and an instructor yelling “Threat!” The officers had to make a quick decision about whether to shoot, Noor said on Thursday.
“Action is better than reaction,” Noor said. “If you’re reacting, that means it’s too late … to protect yourself … you die.”
Noor described another training exercise where he was sent to a location, heard gunshots and, instead of assessing the threat, he ran towards it. An instructor shot him with a paintball gun, he said.
“So the point is if you don’t do your job correctly, you’ll get killed,” said his lawyer Thomas Plunkett.
“Yes, sir,” Noor answered.
The death of Damond, 40, who was engaged to be married a month after her death, sparked anger and disbelief in the US and Australia, cost the city’s police chief her job and contributed to the mayor’s electoral defeat a few months later.
Prosecutors have questioned the supposed noise, presumably from Damond slapping the car as she approached, by noting that investigators had not found forensic evidence of her fingerprints on the car.
They also questioned the timing of Noor’s partner Matthew Harrity’s first mention of the thump – not on the night of the shooting but a few days later, as he was being interviewed by state investigators.
Neither officer had their body cameras running when Damond was shot, something Harrity blamed on what he called a vague policy that didn’t require it.
The department toughened the policy after Damond’s death to require that they be turned on when responding to a call.
Damond was white. Noor, 33, is a Somali American whose hiring two years before the shooting was celebrated by Minneapolis leaders as a sign of a diversifying police force in a city with a large population of Somali immigrants.
Noor testified about immigrating from Somalia to the US, where he became a citizen in 1999. He lived first in Chicago, then moved to Minneapolis, where he said he had fallen in love with the city.
“I always wanted to serve,” he said.
Published: April 26, 2019