Ex-officer who killed 911 caller describes ambush training

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former Minneapolis police officer on trial in the fatal shooting of an unarmed woman who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home testified Thursday about his training for possible ambushes, saying he learned that reacting too late "means ... you die."

Mohamed Noor refused to talk to investigators after the July 2017 shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond , a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, and his testimony was his first public statements since her death. He described the unorthodox path he took to becoming an officer — he was working as a pharmaceutical analyst before deciding to switch careers — and then detailed his 29-week cadet training in 2015.

Noor was fired from the force soon after being charged. His attorneys have said he was spooked by a noise on his squad car right before the shooting and feared an ambush.

Noor described "counter-ambush" training that included scenarios such as two officers in a squad car, doing routine tasks, and an instructor yelling "Threat!" The officers had to make a quick decision about whether to shoot, Noor said.

"Action is better than reaction," Noor said. "If you're reacting, that means it's too late ... to protect yourself ... you die."

Noor described another training exercise where he was sent to a location, heard gunshots and instead of assessing the threat, he ran toward it. An instructor shot him with a paintball gun, he said.

"So the point is if you don't do your job correctly, you'll get killed," his attorney Thomas Plunkett said.

"Yes sir," Noor answered.

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The death of Damond, a 40-year-old life coach who was engaged to be married a month after her death, sparked anger and disbelief in both the U.S. and Australia, cost the city's police chief her job and contributed to the mayor's electoral defeat a few months later.

Prosecutors have questioned the supposed noise, presumably from Damond slapping the car as she approached, by noting that investigators didn't find forensic evidence of Damond's fingerprints on the car. They also questioned the timing of partner Matthew Harrity's first mention of the thump — not the night of the shooting, but a few days later, as he was being interviewed by state investigators.

Neither officer had their body cameras running when Damond was shot, something Harrity blamed on what he called a vague policy that didn't require it. The department toughened the policy after Damond's death to require that they be turned on when responding to a call.

Damond was white. Noor, 33, is a Somali American whose hiring two years before the shooting was celebrated by Minneapolis leaders as a sign of a diversifying police force in a city with a large population of Somali immigrants.

Noor testified about immigrating from Somalia to the U.S., where he became a citizen in 1999. He lived first in Chicago, then moved to Minneapolis, where he said he fell in love with the city.

"I always wanted to serve," he said.

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Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti

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Check out the AP's complete coverage of Mohamed Noor's trial: https://apnews.com/MohamedNoortrial

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