Matthew Harrity has been named as the Minneapolis police officer who was speaking with Australian Justine Damond when his partner shot the spiritual healer.
Mohamed Noor, 31, is the officer accused of shooting Damond, 40, as the yoga teacher spoke to Harrity through the window of his police cruiser. Family members say that the police officers were responding to a 911 call Justine placed after hearing a noise in the alley behind her home.
Neither officer has been formally identified by police, but their names were both widely reported in Minneapolis news media based on sources, and Noor’s attorney has released a statement in which he says the Somali-American officer considered police work a calling.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Harrity Was in the Driver’s Seat of the Squad When Noor Is Accused of Shooting Through the Driver’s Side Door
Authorities have funneled the investigation to a state agency in Minneapolis, which has said almost nothing about the encounter between Damond and Officers Harrity and Noor.
“Two Minneapolis police officers responded to a 911 call of a possible assault just north of the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue S. just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday,” the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a news release. “At one point, an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman.” The shooting occurred around 11:30 p.m. The BCA stressed in the press release that the investigation was in its early stages.
The BCA has said almost nothing else, stressing that the investigation is in its early stages. However, sources told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Noor allegedly fired through the driver’s side door from the passenger seat as Harrity spoke with Damond in that seat.
“Three sources with knowledge of the incident said Sunday that two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley. Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, sources confirmed. No weapon was found at the scene,” the Star Tribune reported.
Damond’s family told the media she had called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley near her home around 11:30 p.m. on July 15; her soon-to-be stepson, Zach Damond, said in a video posted online that she heard a noise.
The BCA said no weapons were found at the scene, and the officers’ body cameras were not on.
2. Harrity Was reportedly ‘Stunned’ When Noor Shot Damond & Works as a Community Service Officer
One news report said that Harrity was allegedly “stunned” when Noor opened fire on Damond, who was struck multiple times and was holding a cell phone. A 2016 city newsletter welcomed Harrity as a community service officer.
“According to police sources, Noor shot across his partner and out the window of the squad car, striking Damond. When Noor opened fire, his partner was ‘stunned,’” reported KARE11.
Noor’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, has released a statement that reported that Noor came to the U.S. at a young age, considers law enforcement a calling, and extends his condolences to the family.
A city newsletter says that Noor was hired in March 2015 and became the first Somali-American officer in his precinct. He has degrees in economics and business from Augsburg College in Minneapolis. His arrival on the force was celebrated by the mayor and community at the time.
3. Protests Have Ignited Over the Shooting & Damond’s Emotional Fiancee Recalled Her Quick Wit
Vigils and rallies have broken out in the wake of Justine’s shooting, with her fiancee and son both giving emotional statements to the news media. Don Damond told the news media on July 17 that the family members’ hearts were broken and that they have been given little information about what happened to her.
“She was so kind. So darn funny. She made us all laugh with her great wit and her humor. It’s difficult to fathom how to go forward without her,” Don said.
Damond’s son and Justine’s future stepson, Zach Damond, has also spoken out in the media about the shooting. In a video, he called Justine his “best friend” and “a passionate woman” and alleged she had called 911 for help because she heard a noise. His comments came in a video that Women’s March Minnesota posted to Facebook. Be aware that his comments are graphic in places.
“My mom is dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know, and I demand answers,” Zach Damond said. “If anybody can help, just call police and demand answers. I’m so done with all this violence. It’s so much bullsh*t. America sucks.”
He added, “These cops need to get trained differently. I need to move out of here. I just know she heard a sound in the alley, so then she called the police, and the cops showed up and she was a very passionate woman, and she probably, she thought something bad was happening. Next thing I know, they take my best friend’s life. So, I’m just done. F*ck the police. Some of you are good, but like I’m just done. I’m so done. This has to stop. This has to stop. That was my mom.”
4. Both Officers Have Complaints in Their Backgrounds
Both Noor and Harrity are on administrative leave. However, that’s standard at this stage in a fatal use-of-force investigation.
“City records show Harrity has one open complaint on file,” KTSP reported. The nature of it is not clear.
Noor had three complaints on his file, with one being dismissed and two open. He also has a pending federal lawsuit in which a retired social worker alleges he and other officers wrongfully committed her to a hospital after she called 911 to report a drug crime and other issues. Heavy has filed an open records request with the state seeking details of the other complaints.
5. Damond Worked as a Yoga Teacher & Spiritual Healer
The praise for Damond was effusive after her death. Friends who knew her praised her profound nature, her caring for others, and her beautiful spirit.
Justine was from Sydney, Australia, where her father sells books. She held meditation and yoga classes at a local consciousness center in Minnesota and had a website devoted to healing, a focus she wrote stemmed from a family history of cancer.
Friend Angela Pedersen spoke for many when she wrote on Facebook: “I am in shock and disbelief about the passing of Justine Damond last night. Someone I would consider a friend and a highly evolved soul,” she wrote on Facebook. “My heart aches for her fiancé and mother in law who often accompanied Justine while she taught some profound meditation classes, sound healing classes, and her Sunday messages at Lake Harriet Spiritual Community. I am happy to have known Justine and her untimely, tragic death is a reminder to live life fully, love deeply, and take risks to love as we are not promised tomorrow.”
Another friend recalled Justine’s profound nature.
“My heart is heavy with disbelief at the news that one of our resident speakers at Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, Justine Damond, was shot and killed by police in South Minneapolis late last night. Details are sketchy at this time. Justine spoke at LHSC on July 2nd. She always had such a profound message and loved going ‘down the rabbit hole,’” wrote Ella Davis-Suggs on Facebook.
Justine had a website dedicated to her healing activities.
“Discover your brain. Master your mind. Open your heart,” it reads.