A Minneapolis police officer has been charged with murder and manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Australian woman in July minutes after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home.
Officer Mohamed Noor turned himself in after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
He shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old life coach, on July 15. with the woman’s death drawing international attention, cost the police chief her job and forced major revisions to the department’s policy on body cameras.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the law makes it difficult to charge police officers unless they are “unacceptably reckless”.
But he added: “Clearly Officer Noor violated the rules and deserves to be charged.”
Mr Noor is charged with third-degree murder “for perpetrating an eminently dangerous act” and with second-degree manslaughter for “culpable negligence creating unreasonable risk”. The murder charge is for a death caused without intent.
No charges can bring our Justine back. However, justice demands accountability for those responsible for recklessly killing the fellow citizens they are sworn to protect, and today's actions reflect thatThe family of Justine Damond
Conviction on the first charge carries a presumptive sentence of 12.5 years while the second is four years. Bail was set at 500,000 dollars (£357,000).
Mr Noor has not spoken publicly about the case and declined to answer questions from investigators. His attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said Mr Noor should not have been charged.
“The facts will show that Officer Noor acted as he has been trained and consistent with established departmental policy. Officer Noor should not have been charged with any crime,” he said in a statement.
Mr Noor, who had been on paid leave since the shooting, was fired from the police force on Tuesday.
Damond’s father, John Ruszcyzk, and her fiance, Don Damond, issued a joint statement saying the decision to charge Mr Noor was “one step toward justice for this iniquitous act”.
“No charges can bring our Justine back. However, justice demands accountability for those responsible for recklessly killing the fellow citizens they are sworn to protect, and today’s actions reflect that,” the statement said.
Mr Noor’s partner the night of the shooting, Matthew Harrity, told investigators that he was startled by a thump on the back of the squad car, heard a voice and glimpsed a person’s head and shoulders outside his window. He said he drew his gun and held it by his ribcage pointing downward.
The complaint said Mr Harrity then heard a sound like a light bulb breaking, saw a flash and looked to his right to see Mr Noor with his arm extended.
He then looked out his window and saw Ms Damond with a gunshot wound in her abdomen. Ms Damond put her hands on the wound and said “I’m dying” or “I’m dead.”
“We both got spooked,” Mr Harrity told his sergeant later, according to the complaint.
“There is no evidence that, in that short timeframe, Officer Noor encountered, appreciated, investigated, or confirmed a threat that justified the decision to use deadly force,” the criminal complaint said. “Instead, Officer Noor recklessly and intentionally fired his handgun from the passenger seat, a location at which he would have been less able than Officer Harrity to see and hear events on the other side of the squad car.”