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Prosecutors seek new charge against Minneapolis officer

November 30, 2018
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FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2017, file photo, Johanna Morrow plays the didgeridoo during a memorial service for Justine Ruszczyk Damond at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the July 2017 shooting death of Damond. They now want to add the charge of intentional second-degree murder in the case. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Prosecutors in the case of a former Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed an Australian woman seek to charge him with a more serious murder count, alleging he intended to cause her death.

In a court filing dated Thursday, prosecutors said they want to charge Mohamed Noor with intentional second-degree murder in the July 15, 2017, death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Authorities said Noor shot Damond after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home.

Noor is already charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter . In their request to add the second-degree murder count, prosecutors said the evidence shows Noor intended to kill Damond when he aimed and fired at her.

“A person acts with the intent to kill not just when they have the purpose of causing death, but also when they believe that their act, if successful, will result in death,” prosecutors wrote.

“As a trained police officer, the defendant was fully aware that such a shot would kill Ms. Ruszczyk, a result he clearly intended,” they added.

Damond’s legal name was Justine Maia Ruszczyk, but she had been using the last name of her fiance, Don Damond, professionally.

Minnesota rules allow criminal complaints to be amended before trial. It will be up to a judge to grant the request. Noor is scheduled to face trial April 1 .

Peter Wold, one of Noor’s attorneys, said he hasn’t seen any new evidence since Noor was initially charged. When asked if an additional count would postpone trial, he said he doubted it, adding: “We’re ready.”

Prosecutors wrote in their filing that it will be up to a jury to weigh which degree of homicide, if any, is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

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

Noor was in the passenger seat of a squad car when he reached across his partner and fired at Damond through the driver’s window after she walked up to them in the darkness.

Noor has declined to speak with investigators. But his partner, Matthew Harrity, told them they “got spooked” when she approached. Noor’s attorneys have argued he acted reasonably because he feared he was in danger.

Damond’s father, John Ruszczyk, 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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