BCA investigator, digital forensic expert take stand in Noor trial

April 23, 2019 10:16 PM

What happened to 15 seconds of video from the body camera worn by the partner of Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor?

That was the focus of testimony from a digital forensic scientist with the BCA. Agent Donny Cheung explained to what lengths state prosecutors went to retrieve every frame of video from both Noor's and Matthew Harrity's cameras. The partners wore them as required on July 15, 2017. Only, jurors heard, the cameras weren't running at the exact moment of the deadly encounter with Justine Ruszcyk Damond in Southwest Minneapolis. Evidence showed that Noor and Harrity switched them on after the gunfire. 


Cheung said the buffer is important because it captures whatever happens in the 30 seconds before an officer hits record. The Minneapolis Police Department stores the footage. Cheung testified buffer settings can be changed to 30 seconds, one minute or three minutes. Cheung examined their data and realized Noor and Harrity's buffers were shorter than every other officer in the department.  Norr's was 7 seconds and Harrity's was 15 seconds. The standard, according to experts, is a half-minute. 

Cheung said the BCA turned to digital experts in Colorado, with more expertise in recovering hard-to-get-at data. Since the partners were not recording during the shooting, perhaps the buffering process documented it. However, it didn't. In fact, Cheung said it revealed a 15-second gap, with no explanation why. Cheung found that to be odd, given the scientists found video from other calls that day that Noor and Harrity responded to before the shooting and after.  

The BCA agent said if Harrity's camera had been set to the standard 30-second buffer, it would have recorded the shooting itself. 

Earlier Tuesday, the lead investigator with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was on the stand.

Chris Olson was initially in charge of the investigation into the officer-involved shooting that killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond in the summer of 2017. BCA agent Brent Petersen took over in December 2017. 

Olson testified that it was difficult to get information on scene the night of the shooting, but he recalled the word, "slap."

KSTP's complete coverage of the Noor trial

One of the key issues in the trial is whether Ruszczyk Damond touched or slapped the vehicle before Noor shot and killed her.

Of the 51 fingerprints lifted, the BCA forensic expert said none definitively matched Ruszczyk Damond's. The expert expressed the inability to conclude one way or the other if Ruszczyk Damond made contact with the vehicle.

Earlier in the trial, Olson expressed frustration over what he called a "lack of information" as well as how police handled the shooting scene.

Also, a forensic scientist at the BCA talked about gunshot residue on evidence, including on the clothing of Officer Matthew Harrity, Noor's former partner and Damond.

RELATED: BCA special-agent-in-charge testifies at Noor trial

Wednesday, prosecutors intend to call an expert witness on the use of force. Noor's defense team has it's own expert. 

Noor has pleaded not guilty, claiming he fired in self-defense. Jurors will decide if the deadly use of force is justified or not. 

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KSTP & Beth McDonough

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