Friday April 19, 2019
By AMY FORLITI
This courtroom sketch depicts Minneapolis police officer Matthew Harrity as he testifies Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Minneapolis, Minn., during the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, his former partner, who fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman, Justine Ruszczyk Damond, in July 2017, after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home. Harrity testified Thursday that he heard a thump on the officers’ squad car right before the shooting and feared a possible ambush. Harrity’s testimony echoed Noor’s claim that he was startled by a noise and feared ambush when he fired a single shot killing Damond. (Cedric Hohnstadt via AP)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The partner of a Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed woman as she approached their squad car testified Thursday that he didn’t fire his own gun because he was still trying to determine if he was in danger, agreeing with a prosecutor’s characterization that it would have been “premature” to use deadly force.
Officer Matthew Harrity is a key witness in the trial of Mohamed Noor, who is charged with murder and manslaughter in the July 15, 2017, shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
Damond had placed two 911 calls that night to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. Struck in the abdomen, the 40-year-old dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia bled to death in an incident that sparked anger and disbelief in both countries.
Prosecutors questioned Harrity on some key points, including why he didn’t fire his own weapon and why he didn’t tell investigators at the scene about a thump on the squad car, something he later said had startled the officers.
Harrity, dressed in full uniform and crying at one point during his testimony, said as he and Noor responded to Damond’s 911 call, they drove down the alley with their headlights off, using a spotlight to search for any evidence of a woman in trouble. Harrity, who was driving, had the safety hood off his holster, ready to pull out his gun if needed.
The pair was in the alley for less than two minutes. Finding nothing, they stopped at the end of the alley and planned to go to another call.
Harrity testified that he then had a “weird feeling” to his left but couldn’t make out what it was.
“At this time, I hear something hit the car and I also hear some sort of murmur,” he said. He said he was startled by the thump and his mind went straight to a possible ambush.