Australian Justine Damond, who was shot dead in Minneapolis. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Australian Justine Damond, who was shot dead in Minneapolis. Picture: Nathan Edwards

Court to see Justine’s last moments

Prosecutors intend to screen the last moments of Justine Ruczszyk Damond's life in open court today, after a judge's order sealing the body camera evidence was lifted yesterday.

Judge Kathryn Quaintance yesterday ruled body camera footage captured by the first investigators on the scene after police officer Mohamed Noor shot Ms Damond in 2017 would be made public.

She had earlier ordered that the footage would be shown only to the 16 person jury at the highly watched murder trial of Noor.

It comes as prosecutors displayed crime scene photos and video for much of the morning court session and heard from witnesses who were first at the scene.

Justine Damond with her fiance Don Damond, who broke down in court as he described their last conversation. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Justine Damond with her fiance Don Damond, who broke down in court as he described their last conversation. Picture: Nathan Edwards

Special Agent Adam Castilleja from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which was brought in to independently investigate the officer involved shooting, said he was struck by the location of the shooting.

"In my experience, that was typically a quiet neighbourhood, low crime rate, very unusual to get dispatched to priority one 911 calls" he said of the south Minneapolis area of Fulton.

"People there typically mind their own business, it's very quiet."

Yesterday, the fiance of Ms Damond detailed in harrowing testimony how he learned she had been shot dead just minutes after calling 911 to help another woman in distress.

Don Damond broke down several times as he described their last conversation and his regret at telling her to call police for help.

 

Former Minneapolis Police Officer, Mohamed Noor is facing trial over the death of Australian woman Justine Damond. Picture: Angus Mordant
Former Minneapolis Police Officer, Mohamed Noor is facing trial over the death of Australian woman Justine Damond. Picture: Angus Mordant

Mr Damond cried and took several deep breaths to steady himself as he answered prosecutor Amy Sweasey's questions about what happened on the night of July 15, 2017, when he was in Las Vegas for a business trip.

At 10.04pm, she texted, saying: "Night!"

"Night!! XO!!" Mr Damond replied.

The pair then traded emojis including an angel, upside down smiley face and kissing faces.

At 11.24pm, Mr Damond looked at his phone during a meting and saw he had missed two phone calls from Ms Damond, prompting him to text: "Hi baby, everything OK? Oily (their code for Oh I love You)".

Five minutes later, Ms Damond called her fiance tell him she was worried about what she could hear outside.

 

Justine Damond was shot dead by a police officer after she called 911 for help. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Justine Damond was shot dead by a police officer after she called 911 for help. Picture: Nathan Edwards

Ms Damond said: "It's really weird but it sounds like she could be enjoying it, but it also sounds like she could be distressed".

Mr Damond said the pair spoke for close to a minute, before he urged her to call the police for help.

"I said I think you should call police, and I think you should stay put," he said.

Five minutes later, Ms Damond texted: "Called 911 they on the way."

"OK, keep me updated," Mr Damond said at 11.31pm.

Six minutes later, as she was waiting for officers to arrive, the pair spoke for another minute and 41 seconds, at the end of which she said, "OK, the police are here."

They didn't speak again, and the transcript showed in court revealed Mr Damond repeatedly messaging and calling to find out what was going on, saying: "Hello?" in one message, and "Let me know what is happening", in another.

It wasn't until about 2am that Mr Damond said he received another call, from a Minneapolis police officer telling him Ms Damond had been killed.

Courtroom sketches from the Noor/ Damond trial, where prosecutor Patrick Lofton opened the state case by arguing that “you should be able to ask the police for help and feel safe”.  Sketch: Cedric Hohnstadt
Courtroom sketches from the Noor/ Damond trial, where prosecutor Patrick Lofton opened the state case by arguing that “you should be able to ask the police for help and feel safe”. Sketch: Cedric Hohnstadt

Opening statements in the trial detailed the last moments for the Australian meditation teacher and counsellor.

Minneapolis prosecutor Patrick Lofton opened the state case by arguing that "you should be able to ask the police for help and feel safe".

He said Ms Damond spoke to her fiance and: "One minute and 19 seconds later, she said the words, 'I'm dying.'"

"As she said those words she was standing outside the officers' conspicuously marked Minneapolis squad car cradling a gunshot wound to her abdomen and bleeding."

The shooting happened on a hot summer, Saturday night in "by far and away Minneapolis's lowest crime area".

Lofton said Noor had "taken aim" and shot Ms Damond deliberately, to the shock of his partner, Matthew Harrity, who was driving the pair's squad car.

"He shot her through an open drivers side window of that car. He fired that shot without saying a word," Mr Lofton said.

Don Damond leaves the Hennepin County Government Center comforted by a Ruszczyk family member. Picture: Angus Mordant
Don Damond leaves the Hennepin County Government Center comforted by a Ruszczyk family member. Picture: Angus Mordant

Prosecutors were also critical of the initial investigation into the shooting, saying that attending officers seemed to be trying to find a reason for Noor to have fired and that they appeared to be creating a cover-up by selectively using their body cameras to interview the two officers.

Noor, 33, is on trial for second degree murder and manslaughter.

Noor's defence Peter Wold argued that the rookie officer had been acting in self defence because he felt he and Harrity were being ambushed, which was something "in the back of the minds of most police officers".

Mr Wold paid tribute to Ms Damond, describing her as a "wonderful woman". But there was an awkward moment when at the first instance he referred to her as "Janine", drawing gasps from the court.

He said his client had been terrified, and using his police training, had responded with reasonable force.

Ms Damond's Sydney family have travelled to Minneapolis for the trial and are sitting in the front row of the courtroom, next to Noor's father, mother and wife.

The trial is expected to take three to four weeks.