March 21, 2018 / 10:06 AM / 6 months ago

Ex-Minnesota officer charged with murdering Australian a flight risk: prosecutors

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Prosecutors argued on Wednesday that the former Minnesota police officer charged with murdering an unarmed Australian woman in July represents a flight risk and should face high bail.

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor and his attorney Tom Plunkett (L) leave the Hennepin County jail after posting bail in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Craig Lassig

Ex-Minneapolis police Officer Mohamed Noor, 32, who on Tuesday was charged in the fatal shooting of 40-year-old Justine Damond, did not enter a plea on the third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.

Judge Kathryn Quaintance set his bail at $500,000 without conditions, or $400,000 if he agreed to no contact with the other officer present at the shooting, surrendered his passport and agreed to avoid possession of any firearms.

Damond, who was living in Minneapolis, called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her house, and she approached the police after their arrival, authorities said.

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor and his attorney Tom Plunkett (R) leave the Hennepin County jail after posting bail in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Craig Lassig

Matthew Harrity, the officer driving the police car from which Noor shot, said he was startled by a loud sound and both officers “got spooked” when Damond appeared out of nowhere, prosecutors 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 Damond “didn’t have to die.”

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy said during the 10-minute hearing in Hennepin County District Court that prosecutors had believed Noor might flee and argued for $500,000 bail.

“There were non-appearance concerns in the fall that Mr. Noor left the country or jurisdiction ... but he was here,” she said, adding that a witness offered to hide the defendant.

Noor’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, argued his client’s deep roots in the community where he was raised since age 5 justified release on personal recognizance. He said Noor never tried to leave the country and offered to turn over Noor’s passport.

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“Mr. Noor does not pose a threat to public safety,” said Plunkett, who declined to speak with reporters afterward. On Tuesday, Plunkett said his client should not have been charged and he was simply following his training.

Noor was placed on paid leave from the police force after the shooting, and Sweasy said that his employment ended. It was not clear if he resigned or was fired, and police declined comment.

Wearing an orange short-sleeved shirt that read “Hennepin County Jail” on back, Noor only spoke at the hearing to calmly spell his name and provide his birthday and address to the judge. He stood behind plexiglass, separate from his attorney.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for May 8. Noor remained in jail Wednesday afternoon.

The penalty for third-degree murder is up to 25 years in prison and second-degree manslaughter carries a penalty of up to 10 years, according to a state website.

Reporting by Todd Melby, Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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