Witnesses in the trial of Mohamed Noor are sequestered outside the courtroom and jurors are to avoid news and social media touching on the trial in any way. My waking hours are spent inside the courtroom. I am of necessity avoiding all news except for news bearing on the trial. If you’re looking for something on the Mueller report, I am not your man.
Yesterday the prosecution continued methodically to call law enforcement witnesses who participated in the investigation or showed up at the scene of Justine Ruszcyk’s shooting by former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor. Two witnesses stood out: a teenage passerby and a Hennepin County Attorney’s Office investigator.
• Patricia McIlvenna was out walking the dog with her daughter a few blocks from Justine’s house. At 9:15, she saw an apparently confused older woman wandering the neighborhood with a roller suitcase. She called 911 three times. She last saw her at 50th and Xerxes, a block from Justine’s house. Is this the woman whose moaning Justine heard in the alley behind her house?
• The stoner bicyclist who passed the scene at the time of the shooting testified. He was 16 at the time. Having smoked a little weed and downed no more than four shots of whiskey, he took off for a friend’s house on his bicycle bearing weed. Seeing the police squad at the end of the alley at 51st and Washburn, he put his head down and tried to keep his cool. The Star Tribune has a detailed account of the bicyclist’s testimony. See also this MPR story.
• The bicyclist has given conflicting statements about the shooting, but he wasn’t a bad witness. Indeed, the Star Tribune reporters found him “compelling.” He was engagingly candid. Think of the Michael Cera Superbad and you won’t be far off.
• He is a high school senior going on to college. He is a long-time employee at an ice cream shop. Given his tenure at the shop, he is entrusted with various tasks and responsibilities.
• Taking his testimony at face value, he saw Justine approaching the squad car cell phone in her left hand, her right hand raised. She was 7-10 feet from the squad. He heard no noise before Noor’s gunshot. He heard the gunshot as he passed.
• He pulled out his cell phone and started recording (he had the newest version of the iPhone). He took a 29-second video of Harrity helping Justine on the ground. He asked the officers: “What’s going on here, sir?” Noor instructed him he could video but he had to back off. His video was obviously taken in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
• He circulated the video to 7-10 of his closest friends an Snapchat.
• Nothing in the bicyclists’s testimony assisted the defense. Defense counsel Tom Plunkett elicited testimony about the bicyclist’s preference for the officers’ to have used tasers he assumed they had. The young man sounded reasonable to me.
• Plunkett gently tried to discredit him with one question too many when inquired if he was still smoking marijuana now. Judge Quaintance angrily sustained the prosecution’s object, but he answered anyway: “And I’m not.”
• Nancy Dunlap is a former Minneapolis Police Department officer now with the Hennepin County Attorney’s. She was an impressive witness.
• She has created a timeline that incorporates every known digital and electronic element leading up to the shooting. She identified the time of the shooting precisely at 11:40 on the evening of July 15.
• I think that KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse has the most valuable Twitter feed on the trial. He is an extremely attentive observer.
• One detail from Dunlap’s testimony would have escaped me but for Lou’s notes on Twitter. Officer Harrity failed to turn on his bodycam at any time during his shift on July 15 except, as it appears, immediately after the shooting. Given the way the bodycam records, with a 30-second silent buffer before it adds sound, there appears to be a 15-second gap (my term) that should have caught the shooting.
11:40:15pm Shot is fired
11:40:29 Harrity's body camera starts running.
— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) April 17, 2019
• The prosecution also called Minneapolis police officer Richard Opitz. After roll call on the morning of July 16, he was ordered to the scene. At the scene Sergeant Barnette ordered him to take the Harrity/Noor squad car from which Noor had fired the gunshot to the carwash and have it cleaned. He took it to Dan’s Nicollet Carwash. He saw fingerprint powder on the squad car that was not entirely removed by the carwash. He drove the car back to the fifth precinct headquarters parking lot to be returned to service.
This case can drive you crazy.