Ex-Minneapolis cop gets 57 months in killing of 911 caller

Midwest

FILE – In this Friday, June 7, 2019 file photo, Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor walks to the podium to be sentenced at Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis. Noor, a former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed woman after she called 911 to report a possible rape behind her home will be sentenced on a lesser charge Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, after his murder conviction was overturned in a case that drew global attention and was fraught with the issue of race. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed woman after she called 911 to report a possible rape behind her home was sentenced Thursday to 57 months on a lesser charge after his murder conviction was overturned.

Mohamed Noor was initially convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the July 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old dual U.S.-Australian citizen and yoga teacher who was engaged to be married. He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years on the murder count, but last month the Supreme Court tossed out Noor’s murder conviction and ordered him to be resentenced for manslaughter.

Noor testified at his 2019 trial that he and his partner were driving slowly in an alley when a loud bang on their police SUV made him fear for their lives. He said he saw a woman appear at the partner’s driver’s side window and raise her right arm before he fired a shot from the passenger seat to stop what he thought was a threat.

The sentence announced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance was the maximum allowed under the state’s sentencing guidelines, which call for a range of 41 to 57 months. Noor had sought the shortest possible term. He has already served more than 29 months.

Damond’s parents, John Ruszczyk and Maryan Heffernan, said in a statement read by prosecutors, their daughter’s death was “utterly gratuitous” and said that the Minnesota Supreme Court’s overturning of a “poorly written law” didn’t change the jury’s belief that Noor committed murder.

“Our sorrow is forever, our lives will always endure an emptiness,” they said.

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The victim’s fiancé, Don Damond, gave his statement via Zoom. He started by praising prosecutors for their “sound application of the law” and criticizing the state Supreme Court for its reversal, which he said, “does not diminish the truth that was uncovered during the trial.”

“The truth is Justine should be alive. No amount of justification, embellishment, cover-up, dishonesty or politics will ever change that truth,” he said.

Damond also spoke directly to Noor, saying he forgave him and had no doubt Justine also would have forgiven him “for your inability in managing your emotions that night.”

In Minnesota, defendants with good behavior typically serve two-thirds of their sentence in prison, and the rest on supervised release.

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