MINNEAPOLIS – An Australian woman who called 911 to report a possible assault was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer after the officers heard a loud sound near their squad car, according to information released Tuesday by Minnesota investigators.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Justine Damond, whose maiden name is Justine Ruszczyk, approached the driver’s side window of the police unit immediately after the driver had been startled by the sound, reported Fox News. The officer in the passenger seat, Mohamed Noor, fired his weapon, hitting Damond through the open driver’s side window, the BCA said.
Officer Matthew Harrity was driving the car. He submitted to an interview with the BCA on Tuesday, but Noor declined. The BCA said his attorney did not indicate when, or if, Noor would be interviewed.
Officers cannot be compelled to an interview for purposes of a criminal investigation. They retain 5th Amendment rights just like ordinary citizens. However, they may be ordered to provided a statement for administrative purposes that cannot be used against them in criminal court. Based upon information that has been publicized, any attorney would counsel Noor to decline an interview that is not compelled.
Messages left with Noor’s attorney were not immediately returned Tuesday.
Both officers are on paid administrative leave. Harrity has been with the department for one year, and Noor has been with them for nearly two.
The information released Tuesday is the first narrative released by the BCA since Saturday night’s shooting. According to the preliminary investigation, Harrity and Noor responded to a 911 call from Damond about a possible assault near her home. The call came in about 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
Harrity was driving the police cruiser as the officers rode through an alley in search of a suspect. They were driving “blacked out,” with their lights off.
Harrity said he was startled by a loud sound near their car. Immediately afterward, Damond approached the driver’s side window. Harrity told BCA agents that Noor fired.
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There was no weapon found at the scene. Due to the circumstances, the officers body cameras were not activated until after the shooting. The video from the police unit did not capture details related to the fatal incident.
Harrity told investigators the officers got out of the squad and gave Damond immediate medical attention.
Harrity said that he and Noor saw a man, estimated to be between 18 and 25, bicycling in the area before the shooting. That man stopped and watched as officers attended to Damond. BCA agents are asking that man, and any other potential witnesses, to come forward.
There was no further explanation as to what caused the “loud sound.”