Judge: Squad car can be examined in case of Australian woman

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge ruled that a former officer who fatally shot an Australian woman last year can inspect a Minneapolis Police Department Ford Explorer squad car Friday evening as part of his defense against charges in the killing.

Mohamed Noor’s lawyers asked for access to the SUV he was in on the night of the shooting because the moon could be in the same phase as it was on the night in July 2017 when he shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

Hennepin County Judge Kathryn Quaintance ruled late Friday that Noor and his lawyers could have access Friday evening to “a Ford Explorer squad car,” but did not say it would be the one used on the night Damond died.

Authorities say Damond had called police to report a possible sexual assault happening in an alley behind her Minneapolis home but was shot as she approached Noor and his partner’s patrol vehicle. Damond was unarmed.

Noor’s attorneys said in a written request that they wanted an opportunity “to independently gather information, make measurements and allow testing and analysis” as part of their own examination. They said access to the vehicle would be “most helpful.” Quaintance said they could take photos and measurements of a squad car.

Noor’s attorney, Peter Wold, declined to comment on the planned examination or the importance of moon phases. The moon was supposed to be about 60 percent full Friday night, but weather reports for Minneapolis showed partly cloudy skies.

Noor has declined to speak with investigators about the shooting. But his former partner, Matthew Harrity, told them that he and Noor “got spooked” when Damond approached in the darkness . Noor, who was in the passenger seat, fired past his partner, who was behind the wheel, as Damond approached the driver-side window.

Noor’s attorneys have argued he acted reasonably because he feared he was in danger. They have indicated he will plead not guilty to charges of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter. He remains free on bail ahead of a trial scheduled to begin April 1.

Noor was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department in March on the same day he was charged. His union is appealing his dismissal.

Damond was a 40-year-old life coach and dual Australian-U.S. citizen who had been living in Minnesota with her finance for more than two years.

Her father, John Ruszczyk of Sydney, Australia, has filed a $50 million civil rights lawsuit against Noor, the city and others. That case has been put on hold while the criminal case proceeds.

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