Australian Justine Ruszczyk Damond was shot dead because a US police officer “got spooked” according to newly-released documents.
US police officer Mohamed Noor was charged overnight with third degree murder and manslaughter over last year’s shooting death of 40-year-old Damond in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Noor handed himself in to police on March 20 and was remanded in jail on a bail of $US500,000.
Damond, an Australian vet and yoga instructor living in the US with fiancé Don Damond, was shot dead on the evening of July 15 after reporting a disturbance behind her home.
Noor, 31, and his partner Matthew Harrity, 25, were the responding officers.
While Noor has not yet given a statement to police, Harrity told authorities that the pair were initially startled by a noise when they arrived at the scene.
At some point afterward, Harrity heard a voice and a “thump” coming from behind the car, “and caught a glimpse of a person’s head and shoulders outside his window,” according to the charge sheet obtained by Minnesota’s Star Tribune.
“Officer Harrity said he was startled and said ‘Oh, shit or Oh, Jesus.’ He said he perceived that his life was in danger, reached for his gun, unholstered it, and held it to his rib cage while pointing it downward. He said from the driver’s seat he had a better vantage point to determine a threat than officer Noor would have had from the passenger seat.”
It is alleged Noor then fired his weapon across Harrity through the window. Outside the window, Harrity saw Damond, “who put her hands on a gunshot wound on the left side of her abdomen and said ‘I’m dying’ or ‘I’m dead.’ ”
After the killing, the officers turned their body cameras on and Harrity is later heard telling a police sergeant that Damond “came up on the side out of nowhere… we both got spooked.”
In a statement provided to the media, Damond’s family said they “applauded” the decision to criminally charge Noor.
“While we have waited more than eight months to come to this point, we are pleased with the way a grand jury, and County Attorney Mike Freeman, appear to have been diligent and thorough in investigating and ultimately determining that these charges are justified,” said the family. “No charges can bring our Justine back. However, justice demands accountability for those responsible for killing the people they are sworn to protect.”