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Mohamed Noor takes stand in murder trial of Sydney woman Justine Damond Ruszczyk


A former Minneapolis policeman on trial in the fatal shooting of Australian life coach Justine Damond Ruszczyk has made his first public statements about the incident.

Mohamed Noor, the former Minneapolis police officer who shot dead Australian life coach Justine Damond Ruszczyk, has described how he heard a loud bang on his squad car and then saw a woman in a pink shirt with blonde hair appear at his partner's window and raise her right arm.

His partner, Officer Matthew 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 decision.

Justine Damond Ruszczyk was shot dead on July 15 last year.
Justine Damond Ruszczyk.

Noor said he pressed his left arm over Officer Harrity's chest to protect his partner and fired a single bullet through the open window striking Ms Damond Ruszczyk.

"My intent was to stop the threat and save my partner's life," Noor told the downtown Minneapolis courtroom on Thursday.

Ms Damond Ruszczyk, 40, originally from Sydney, was barefoot, had pyjama pants on and a pink t-shirt with 'Koala Australia' written on the front and a picture of a koala mum with a baby koala.

It was just after 11.30pm on 15 July in 2017, and Ms Damond Ruszczyk approached Noor's police vehicle as it sat stationary in an alley behind her home in one of Minneapolis' safest suburbs.

She had called 911 after hearing a woman's screams in the alley and feared a sexual assault was being committed.

Noor, 33, a Somali immigrant who had been an officer for 21 months before the shooting, was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

John Ruszczyk (L), the father of Justine Damond Ruszczyk, with his wife Marian Hefferen
John Ruszczyk (L), the father of Justine Damond Ruszczyk, with his wife Marian Hefferen.

His testimony was the first time he had spoken publicly about the incident after declining to talk to investigators and the media.

Ms Damond Ruszczyk was unarmed but was holding a gold, glittery iPhone and toxicology results found she had no alcohol or drugs in her system.

"I felt like my whole world came crashing down," Noor, describing when he realised he had shot an innocent woman, said.

"I couldn't breathe."

He cried as he told the jury "he would never have become a cop" if he knew it was going to happen.

"Would you have discharged your weapon that evening if you were not concerned for your safety and your partner's safety?" Noor's lawyer, Tom Plunkett, asked.

Noor said he would not.

Prosecutor Amy Sweasy pounced on that during her cross-examination, asking Noor if he believed "concern" was enough to fire his weapon.

Noor said it was when looking at all the circumstances and to protect him himself and Officer Harrity from death or great bodily harm.

Ms Sweasy also attacked Noor for making a quick decision without being able to see Ms Damond Ruszczyk's hands, or whether she was carrying a weapon or a mobile phone.

Noor testified that he had been Officer Harrity's partner since December 2016, and the pair had nearly 400 hours on the job together.

He said the partner relationship is "like a marriage" and he knew Officer Harrity well enough to know when his partner was terrified.

Noor was fired from the force soon after being charged.

His lawyers have said he feared an ambush, and Noor testified about "counter-ambush" training that included scenarios such as two officers in a squad car, doing routine tasks, and an instructor yelling "Threat!"

The officers had to make a quick decision about whether to shoot, Noor said.

"Action is better than reaction," Noor said.

"If you're reacting, that means it's too late to protect yourself. You die."

The trial continues.

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