A new report says that two Minneapolis police officers thought that an unarmed woman wearing pajamas was ambushing them, causing one of the officers to fatally shoot her.
Justine Damond was shot and killed on July 15 after she called 911 about a possible assault in the alley behind her home. When the 40-year-old woman walked into the well-lit alley, she was gunned down by Officer Mohamed Noor, according to Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
An unidentified source told KSTP that the officers did not see anything when they responded to Damond’s 911 call, and were called to another case as a young man rode past them on a bicycle. The officers then heard a pounding on the driver’s side of the SUV, and believed they were being ambushed, according to the source.
Officer Matthew Harrity, the driver, told BCA investigators that “Officer Noor discharged his weapon” from the passenger seat.
The source said that Noor had his gun on his lap at the time, and that the bicyclist stopped and filmed the aftermath of the shooting.
The BCA report also mentioned the bicyclist, but made no mention of a video of the incident. That investigation is ongoing.
For reasons unknown, the officers did not have their dashcam or body cams turned on during the shooting.
Harrity and Noor were both placed on paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated.
Robert Bennett, a lawyer representing Damond’s family, told CBS News: “[Damond] obviously wasn’t armed, was not a threat to anyone … nor could she have reasonably [been] perceived to be,” notes The Guardian.
Bennett also dismissed the ambush theory: “I think that’s ludicrous. It’s disinformation … it doesn’t have any basis in fact.”
Harrity’s lawyer, Fred Bruno, told the Star Tribune that “it’s certainly reasonable” to assume the police would be concerned about being ambushed: “It was only a few weeks ago when a female NYPD cop and mother of twins was executed in her car in a very similar scenario.”
Damond was originally from Australia, where news of her death has stirred outrage.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Melbourne radio station 3AW radio on July 20: “What a terrible tragedy … the whole incident is completely inexplicable. It doesn’t make any sense how she could be seen as a threat.”
Turnbull said Australian authorities expect answers and predicted a full inquiry.
Noor has yet to give a statement on the fatal shooting, and his lawyer has not indicated that he will do so.
Joe Friedberg, a Minneapolis criminal defense attorney, said the police department can force Noor to give a statement, and fire him if he doesn’t, but added that the statement could not be used against Noor during a criminal investigation.