May 8, 2018 / 10:04 AM / 2 months ago

Ex-Minnesota officer in fatal shooting of Australian expected to plead not guilty

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering an unarmed Australian woman is expected to enter a not guilty plea on Tuesday.

Mohamed Noor, 32, will enter his plea in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis and court documents filed last month show he intends to argue he used “reasonable force” last July when he fatally shot 40-year-old Justine Damond. Noor, who was freed on $400,000 bail, faces third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.

Noor’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, previously said his client should not have been charged and he was simply following his training. Noor has offered Damond’s family his condolences for their loss.

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. Noor then “recklessly” fired his handgun, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said after the officer’s arrest in March.

FILE PHOTO: 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/File Photo

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 “inexplicable.” Then-Minneapolis police Chief Janee Harteau resigned after city officials said procedures had been violated and Damond “didn’t have to die.”

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.

Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, had taken the name of her fiance, Don Damond, ahead of their planned August 2017 wedding. She owned a meditation and life-coaching company.

(This story corrects first name of former Minneapolis police chief to Janee from Jamee in paragraph 6.)

FILE PHOTO: Mohamed Noor, 32, is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters March 20, 2018. Hennepin County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Reporting by Todd Melby, writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Susan Thomas

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