Minneapolis, MN – The family of the Australian yoga instructor who was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer after she called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley behind her home has filed a lawsuit alleging her civil rights were violated.
Her family has also accused police officials and the officer’s partner of “conspiracy to cover up the true facts surrounding the killing of Justine,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
The incident occurred on July 15, 2017 when 32-year-old Officer Mohamed Noor responded to the call from 40-year-old Justine Damond with his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
With Officer Noor in the passenger seat, Officer Harrity pulled into the alleyway with the patrol car’s headlights deactivated, and removed the safety hood from the holster of his duty weapon.
He said that he heard a dog barking as he neared Damond’s home, and that he slowed the vehicle to two miles per hour, but never stopped.
Approximately two minutes later, the officers approached the end of the alley, and waited for a bicyclist to pass as they cleared from the call.
Officer Harrity said that moments later, he heard a voice and a thump towards the rear of the patrol car, and then “caught a glimpse of a person’s head and shoulders outside his window.”
He said that the person, later identified as Damon, was approximately two feet away, and that he could not see her hands, and did not know if she had any weapons.
The startled officer recalled having said, “Oh s–t,” or “Oh Jesus,” and grabbed for his duty weapon, believing his life was in danger. He said he drew the weapon and held it to his rib cage, pointed downwards.
Officer Harrity said that he then heard a noise “that sounded like a light bulb dropping on the floor, and saw a flash.”
After checking to see if he had been shot, Officer Harrity said he realized that Officer Noor’s right arm was extended towards him, and that Damon was standing outside the driver’s side window with her hands on the left side of her abdomen, covering a gunshot wound.
She said, “‘I’m dying,’ or ‘I’m dead,’” according to the court documents.
Officer Harrity rushed to her aid, and told Officer Noor to re-holster his weapon and to activate his bodycam.
He initiated CPR, and Officer Noor eventually took over. Damond died at the scene.
Officer Noor was charged with third-degree murder “perpetrating eminently dangerous act and evincing depraved mind,” and second-degree manslaughter “culpable negligence creating unreasonable risk” in Hennepin County District Court on March 20, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
Noor’s employment with the Minneapolis Police Department was terminated following his arrest.
The lawsuit by Damond’s family claimed that Noor and Officer Harrity conspired to keep their body-worn cameras from collecting potential incriminating evidence.
The civil rights complaint, which is seeking more than $50 million in damages, was filed in federal court in Minneapolis on behalf of Damond’s father, John Ruszczyk, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
The lawsuit alleged that cameras would have contained “evidence that would incriminate Noor, evidence that would expose the false statements of Harrity, and evidence that would show the public and the jurors in both the criminal and civil trials the truth of the circumstances of Justine’s death.”
It also claimed that failure of officers to activate bodycams was common in the department, and said the officers in Damond’s case failed to activate their bodycams “knowing that evidence needed to convict a police officer would be lost. … Noor and Harrity did so to protect themselves — to insulate any lies they might later tell.”
The lawsuit also named former Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau, current Police Chief Medaria Arrandondo, and the city of Minneapolis, FOX News reported.