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Ruszczyk's 911 call audio: Deep breath, worried voice

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A photograph of Justine Ruszczyk surrounded with colored roses
A photograph of Justine Ruszczyk surrounded with colored roses and other arrangements sits on a stage at Lake Harriet for her memorial.
Maria Cardona | MPR News 2017

Justine Ruszczyk sounded worried, even a little breathless, when she called police twice to report what she thought might be a woman being raped outside her Minneapolis home.

Minutes later, an officer who responded to Ruszczyk's call for help shot and killed her.

The audio recording of Ruszczyk's two 911 calls were released to the public Thursday. For most people, it's the first time they will hear Ruszczyk's voice before her fatal encounter with then-Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.

The first call, placed at 11:27 p.m. on July 15, 2017, begins with a deep breath from Ruszczyk. She tells the operator: "I can hear someone out the back and I, I'm not sure if she's having sex or being raped ... I think she just yelled out 'help,' but it's difficult. The sound has been going on for a little while, but I think, I don't think she's enjoying it. I think it's, I don't know."

The operator tells her the police are coming to her Fulton neighborhood and to call back if anything changes. "Officers should be there soon," he tells Ruszczyk.

Ruszczyk, also known as Justine Damond, makes a second call at 11:35 p.m. asking where are the police and whether they might have gotten the wrong address.

"You're hearing a female screaming?" an operator asks in the second call.

"Yes, the lane behind the home," Ruszczyk responds.

"Officers are on the way there," the operator says.

"Thank you," Ruszczyk says.

Prosecutors played the 911 recordings early in the trial of former officer Noor, who was convicted last month of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The attorneys repeatedly emphasized the fact that Ruszczyk was just a 911 caller who called police for help and ended up dead.

The recordings and other audiovisual files comprised the first batch of evidence to be released this week.

On Wednesday, a Hennepin County judge ruled in favor of media outlets, including MPR News, that sought permission to copy exhibits presented as evidence from Noor's trial.

All but five graphic videos from officer body cameras were released Thursday.

Judge Kathryn Quaintance said those five remaining bodycam videos could be exploited "for improper purposes" if they were released.

She wrote in her ruling that Ruszczyk's exposed body, distressed face and sounds of her gasping for breath, moaning and vomiting have limited value for reporting purposes. She ordered the prosecution to submit redacted versions of those five videos by June 10.

On Friday, hundreds of other documents are expected to be released.

Noor will be sentenced June 7.