Former Minneapolis officer to stand trial in Justine Ruszczyk's death

A judge set an April trial date for a former Minneapolis officer charged in the fatal shooting of ...

Posted: Sep 28, 2018 10:47 AM
Updated: Sep 28, 2018 10:47 AM

A judge set an April trial date for a former Minneapolis officer charged in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home.

Mohamed Noor faces third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in the death of the unarmed Australia native, 40, in July 2017.

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Noor was released on a $400,000 bond after turning himself into authorities in March. He has not entered a plea but his attorneys filed court papers earlier saying he plans to plead not guilty, citing self defense and reasonable force, according to CNN affiliate WCCO.

Noor's attorney, Tom Plunkett, declined to comment on Thursday's ruling but previously said his client's actions were consistent with training and department policies. Prosecutors contend Noor was never under threat and should not have opened fire.

Hennepin County Judge Kathryn L. Quaintance on Thursday ruled there was probable cause to charge Noor and set the April 1 trial date.

Ruszczyk called 911 late at night to report the possible assault in an alley.

Officer Matthew Harrity told investigators he drove to the scene, with Noor in the passenger seat, and was startled by a "loud sound" near the squad car, according to Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Immediately afterward, Ruszczyk approached the window on the driver's side, and Noor shot Ruszczyk through the window, Harrity said.

Ruszczyk died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Noor and Harrity were initially placed on administrative leave during the investigation. Noor had been on the police force for two years and was his precinct's first Somali-American officer.

Noor's actions did not reflect the training he and Harrity received on responding to possible threats to their safety, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told reporters in March.

"There is no evidence that Officer Noor encountered a threat, appreciated a threat, investigated a threat or confirmed a threat that justified his decision to use deadly force," Freeman said.

Noor's last day of employment on the force was in March, said Chief Medaria Arradondo. The chief said he couldn't say whether Noor was fired.

Ruszczyk's death caused outrage in the United States and her home country of Australia and led to the resignation of Minneapolis' then-police chief.

Ruszczyk was a veterinary surgeon in Australia, and worked as a spiritual healer, yoga and meditation instructor and life coach in Minnesota. Her fiance, Don Damond, said the two had planned to get married that summer.

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