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Jury To Decide The Fate Of Ex-Officer Who Killed 911 Caller

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Today in Minneapolis, a jury starts its first full day of deliberation in the trial of former police officer Mohamed Noor who shot and killed a woman who had called 911 for help. This trial lasted nearly a month with testimony from more than 50 witnesses. Riham Feshir from Minnesota Public Radio reports.

RIHAM FESHIR, BYLINE: It was around 11:30 in the evening on a hot summer day in July of 2017. Forty-year-old Justine Ruszczyk, who moved here from Australia, called 911 to report what she thought might be a sexual assault in the alley behind her house. Police officers Mohamed Noor and Matthew Harrity responded. Noor rode in the passenger seat. They pulled into the alley with lights off, searching, but not finding anything suspicious.

But when they reached the end of the alley, they heard a noise. Harrity, who was driving, testified he heard a thump on the squad car, and it startled him. He was the prosecution's key witness, putting the two officers in the same situation at the same time. One officer fired. The other did not. Marsh Halberg is a criminal defense lawyer, not involved in the case, who's been watching the trial.

MARSH HALBERG: When he was posed with the question of, why didn't you shoot her, and his point was, I didn't see a weapon at the point, I didn't perceive the threat at that level, at that time.

FESHIR: When Noor took the stand in his own defense, he told the jury that he was only trying to protect his partner. Noor testified that he could identify Ruszczyk as a threat, raising an arm standing outside of the driver's side window. He said he saw his partner struggle to unholster his gun, and he saw a look of terror in his eyes. Noor said he put one arm on his partner and extended his right arm out to fire at Ruszczyk through the open driver's side window. Defense attorneys labeled Noor a hero, saying he was just trying to save his partner's life.

Some activists argue that in charging Noor, who's Somali, prosecutors are scapegoating him. Activist and civil rights lawyer Nekima Levy Armstrong says this case makes her question the prosecution's intent.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NEKIMA LEVY ARMSTRONG: People have been killed in Minneapolis since Justine was killed, and we have not seen any charges filed against those police officers. Those officers were not made a public spectacle as what we saw in the case of Mohammed Noor.

FESHIR: But the prosecution says the case merits murder charges. Ruszczyk was only a 911 caller reaching out to police because she was just trying to help. For NPR News, I'm Riham Feshir in Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.