It was after 11:30pm on July 15, 2017, when Justine Ruszczyk Damond approached the police car outside her Minnesota home. She was barefoot, wearing pyjamas and a pink koala t-shirt, clutching a glittery gold mobile phone in her hand. Within minutes, she was dead.
The 40-year-old was fatally shot by Mohamed Noor – one of the Minneapolis Police Department officers dispatched to respond to a 911 call she’d placed a short time earlier. The Sydney-born life coach, who was living in the US wither her American fiancé, had phoned police to report that she could hear what sounded like a woman being sexually assaulted in the alley behind their home.
Noor is currently on trial for murdering Damond, and gave surprise testimony on Thursday and Friday in which he spoke for the first time about why he pulled the trigger on the unarmed woman.
The 33-year-old claimed that when he and his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, arrived at the residence, he heard a loud bang on his squad car. He testified that he then saw a woman appear at the driver-side window and raise her right arm. Noor told the court Officer Harrity had fear in his eyes, yelled “Oh Jesus!” and went for his gun but had difficulty pulling it out of the holster.
Noor believed he had to make a split-second decision. He pressed his left arm over Officer Harrity’s chest to protect him, and fired a single bullet through the open window, striking Damond.
“My intent was to stop the threat and save my partner’s life,” Noor told the downtown Minneapolis courtroom.
Noor’s decision to address the court came as a surprise to media reporting on the case. He had previously refused to talk to investigators or offer Damond’s family any form of explanation for his actions.