The former police officer accused of murdering Aussie woman Justine Damond broke down in court as he recalled the moment he realised he had killed her, according to multiple reports.
Minneapolis ex cop Mohamed Noor shot Australian life coach Justine Ruszczyk Damond while on duty in July 2017 and is now facing two counts of murder and one of manslaughter in relation to the fatal shooting outside her home.
Damond, 40, who grew up in Sydney, died after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault taking place in an alleyway near her home in the US state of Minnesota. Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, responded to the incident which is when the tragic chain of events took place.
Noor testified in court for the first time on Thursday and according to The Mail Online, he claimed he fired the fatal shot to stop what he thought was a threat to him and his partner, after hearing a loud noise outside their car.
“I fired one shot,” he told the court. “My intent was to stop the threat.”
He reportedly described seeing a woman with blonde hair and wearing a pink shirt raising her right arm outside Harrity’s driver’s side window.
When he realised he had in fact shot an innocent woman, Noor reportedly broke down as he told the court: “I felt like my whole world came crashing down.”
“I couldn’t breathe,” he added. “I felt great pain.”
Meanwhile, according to The Australian, Noor told the court he previously conducted “anti-ambush” training with the police force, adding: “The most important takeaway for me is actions are better than reactions.”
As defence lawyer Thomas Plunkett asked: “So the point is, if you don’t do your job correctly you get killed?” he reportedly replied: “Yes sir.”
According to the news outlet, the prosecution went on to argue that his decision to shoot Damond before checking she was unarmed was a crime, while the defence have said it was a legitimate and legal response as he feared for his and his partner’s lives at the time.
His partner Harrity also spoke in court, claiming Noor’s decision seemed premature, The Australian reports.
“I didn’t analyse the threat fully yet,” he reportedly told the court about the moment Noor shot his weapon.
When prosecutor Amy Sweasy asked: “So the use of deadly force at that point would be premature?” Harrity is said to have replied: “Yes, with what I had.”
Justine, who worked as a spiritual healer and meditation coach, lived in Minneapolis with her fiancé Don Damond – and he previously gave evidence, according to local newspaper The Star Tribune.
He also recalled informing Justine’s family in Australia of her death, some of whom were reportedly present in the courtroom, describing it as the “worst phone call” he’s ever had to make.
If Noor is found guilty he will be the first police officer in the state’s history to be jailed for killing a civilian.
Under US law, a third-degree murder charge indicates the homicide was not deliberately planned or committed in the process of committing a felony, while second-degree manslaughter indicates that there may have been criminally negligent or reckless conduct involved in the death. The degree of charges dictate what level of penalty can be applied by the court.