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Video: Confusion, disbelief as MPD officers rush to Ruszczyk shooting

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Mohamed Noor at the scene of the 2017 shooting of Justine Ruszcyk.
Bodycam videos released Thursday show officers responding to the 2017 police shooting of Justine Ruszczyk. The footage, which includes conversations with Mohamed Noor, is among the 300-plus trial exhibits that a judge ordered released.
Courtesy of Hennepin County Municipal Court

Minneapolis police officers who rushed to a residential alley in response to a call of shots fired were confused by the circumstances they found.

A woman was dead. She had no weapon. And the shooter was one of their own.

Body camera videos released on Thursday paint a picture of how officers responded to the police shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. The footage was presented as evidence in the trial of former officer Mohamed Noor.

Last month a jury found Noor guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges, making him the first police officer in Minnesota to be convicted of killing someone while on duty.

Neither Noor nor his partner activated his body camera in time to capture the shooting, but the footage from the night of July 15, 2017, shows perplexed  officers trying to piece together what happened.

It's nearing midnight as officers descend on the quiet southwest Minneapolis neighborhood. They find Noor and his partner in an alley performing CPR on Ruszczyk, also known as Justine Damond.

Officers ask where the weapon or suspect is. One asks if the shooting was a suicide or a homicide. When they learn there was no weapon, and that Noor shot Ruszczyk, some react with disbelief.

One officer, Robert Lewis, is heard telling another officer, "At first I thought maybe he shot somebody."

"He did," says the other.

"Oh he did? So he hit the person?" Lewis asks.

Justine Damond
Justine Ruszczyk, also known as Justine Damond, was shot and killed by Minneapolis police late Saturday night.
Courtesy Stephen Govel

"In the stomach."

"Shut up," Lewis says. "Shut up."

Prosecutors at Noor's trial argued that police on the scene didn't cooperate with the investigation of Ruszczyk's death. And some of the most critical conversations from the night weren't captured by bodycams.

Officer Jesse Lopez saw Noor as he was being escorted into a squad car. In his body camera video, Lopez is heard telling another another to turn off a camera inside the vehicle.

Lopez walks up to Noor, who looks shaken. He tells Noor, "Keep your mouth shut" for now.

He then shepherds Noor into the vehicle to sit with a fellow officer and turns off his bodycam.

It was a common occurrence that night. The videos show police officers repeatedly shutting off their body cameras at the scene.

That includes Sgt. Shannon Barnette, Noor's supervisor, who took charge of the crime scene.

Barnette's body camera footage shows her asking Noor's partner, Matthew Harrity, what happened.

Harrity responds, "She just came up out of nowhere. On the side of the thing. We both got spooked. I had my gun out. I didn't fire. Then Noor pulled out and fired."

At trial, Noor testified that he shot Ruszczyk after he heard a thump on the squad car and thought his partner's life was in danger. But prosecutors say Harrity didn't mention anything about a noise the night of the shooting.

Noor is also seen in Barnette's footage, but her body camera wasn't fully activated, so it only recorded a 30-second silent interaction with him.

During the trial, prosecutors pressed Barnette on why she turned off her camera while talking to Noor, who was a shooter at a crime scene. She said it was a private conversation.

This week the Hennepin County District Court is allowing journalists and the public to make copies of all but five of the body camera videos presented at Noor's trial. Those five videos contain graphic footage of Ruszczyk's final moments of life. The judge presiding over the case has ruled that those videos may be released once they're redacted.

But all of the trial exhibits, totaling more than 300, are available for the public to view Friday at the Hennepin County Government Center.