Evidence tells grim story of the night a police officer killed Justine Damond
MINNEAPOLIS — In plastic evidence bags lay Justine Rusczcyk Damond’s pajamas from that night: the pink top emblazoned with the words “Koala Australia,” stained and ripped from when the paramedics tried to save her that night. Next to it was the iPhone she used to summon the police officer who eventually shot her.
On Friday, for the first time since the guilty verdict, Hennepin County courts allowed the public to examine the physical and most graphic body-camera evidence from the trial of Mohamed Noor, the former Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Damond, an unarmed woman, in summer 2017. The murder verdict, though extremely rare in cases of police shootings, has done little to satisfy community members wondering why or how it all happened.
The release of evidence came after weeks of legal fights between a coalition of media partners and the judge, who sought from the beginning of the case to limit public access to the trial and its roughly 300 pieces of evidence. On Thursday, the court released audio files ranging from Damond’s 911 calls reporting a possible sexual assault to several body camera videos recorded by officers on the scene.
Some came looking for more answers Friday.
In a hushed 12th-floor room of the courthouse, reporters and a few members of the public paced through what resembled a museum of the final moments and immediate aftermath of Damond’s life, each piece telling a little more of the story.
The blue uniforms Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity wore that night were still affixed with their badges, wrapped in plastic bags and tagged as evidence, along with the bullet-resistant vests, cellphones and utility belts with heavy metal flashlights.
Their guns were displayed in cardboard next to the single discharged bullet, flattened in the nose from impact.
Binders of photos began with a familiar portrait of Damond smiling in front of a lush palm backdrop, then transforms into a sequence of medical examiner photos showing the fatal wound on the left side of her abdomen.
In an adjacent room, people watched videos captured by police body cameras and listened to radio chatter from the 911 responders who arrived onto the scene of the shooting.
On some of them, Harrity is seen pleading with a dying Damond to continue breathing.
A shocked Noor is mostly quiet, other than to ask: “Where’s the ambulance? Where’s EMS?”
“Everything’s gonna be all right,” Harrity repeatedly consoles Damond. “Keep breathing, you can do this.”
As other officers arrive on scene, they can’t make sense of what they see.
Officer Thomas Fahey inquires about finding the gunman as Harrity and Noor continue CPR.
“Let’s get a suspect, let’s try to work on a suspect,” he says.
“No, our shots fired, it’s ours,” Harrity responded.
“You did?” Fahey asks, incredulous.
“Yeah,” Harrity said, pointing to Noor.
A moment of stunned silence passes before Harrity motions to Noor to continue CPR: “Keep goin’, keep goin’!”
Firefighters and paramedics take over a short time later as the bewildered officers continue to arrive, trying to get answers.
“We’re calling it, guys,” a medic says a short time later. “They just don’t get ‘em back.”
The medic explains that Damond was in traumatic arrest. Without a surgeon on scene, there’s nothing they could have done. They crouch around Damond’s body for a moment, saying nothing.
“Sucks,” the medic said.
Officer Brian Crabb pulls up on scene and asks what’s going on. A fellow officer replies with an expletive that he doesn’t know, “but she’s gone.”
“A woman?” Crabb asks. “Suicide? Homicide?”
A call log shows Damond’s fiancé, Don Damond, was texting and calling her all this time.
“Let me know what’s happening,” he wrote just before midnight.
And at 2:26 a.m.: “Hello?”