March 20, 2018 / 6:10 PM / 9 months ago

Charging decision expected for Minnesota officer in Australian's death

MINNEAPOLIS, March 20 (Reuters) - Minneapolis’ top prosecutor is expected to announce on Tuesday whether his office will charge a police officer in the fatal shooting of an Australian woman in July 2017 that led to a police chief’s resignation.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s office said in a statement that it would hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. local time to discuss the decision in the death of Justine Damond, 40, who was shot once by Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor from his patrol car.

Freeman delayed his decision in December, saying his office needed more time and he did not have enough evidence to charge Noor. The county attorney’s office declined to comment beyond the statement on Tuesday.

Noor has been on paid leave and had declined to be interviewed by Minnesota state investigators. Neither Noor’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, nor the head of the Minneapolis Police Union, Bob Kroll, could immediately be reached for comment.

Plunkett has said that Noor extended his “thoughts and wishes” to Damond’s family and raised concerns about Freeman’s objectivity.

The attorney for Damond’s family, Bob Bennett, could not be reached on Tuesday. He has said that the family supported the delay in the charging decision as they wanted a thorough investigation.

Damond, who was living in Minneapolis and engaged to be married, had called police about a possible sexual assault near her house and approached the police after their arrival, authorities have said.

The shooting drew condemnation in Minnesota and Australia, where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called it “shocking” and “inexplicable.” Then-Minneapolis police chief Jamee Harteau resigned after city officials said procedures had been violated and that Damond “didn’t have to die.”

Neither Noor, who came to the United States from Somalia as a child, nor Matthew Harrity, another officer in the patrol car, had their body cameras activated, police have said.

Harrity has told investigators that he was startled by a loud sound near the patrol car shortly before Noor fired through the open driver’s-side window, striking Damond. Court documents said a woman slapped the back of the car before the shooting. (Reporting by Todd melby, Writing by Ben Klayman)

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