Ex-Minneapolis Officer Sentenced To 12 1/2 Years In Death Of Unarmed 911 Caller

Jun 7, 2019
Originally published on June 7, 2019 4:45 pm

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

A former Minneapolis police officer was sentenced on Friday to 12 1/2 years in prison for fatally shooting a woman who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home.

Mohamed Noor, 33, was convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter in April in the death of Justine Ruszczyk in July 2017, a month before she was to be married.

Noor's attorney had asked the judge for leniency, saying the remorseful ex-officer hopes to make amends for killing Ruszczyk, who was also known as Justine Damond and who held both U.S. and Australian citizenship.

"I caused this tragedy and it is my burden," Noor told the court, according to member station Minnesota Public Radio. He added: "I worked to be good at my job and bring people together. I hoped to make individual lives better. That was my hope. Taking a life so tragically goes against all of that."

But Judge Kathryn Quaintance was unswayed, following the recommendation under state guidelines.

"The act may have been based on a miscalculation, but it was an intentional act," Quaintance said. "Good people sometimes do bad things."

Justine Ruszczyk called 911 to report a possible rape in the alley behind her home. Later that night, she was fatally shot by Mohamed Noor, who had been on the police force for more than two years.
Amy Forliti / AP

Also at the hearing, Ruszczyk's fiance, Don Damond, grieved for the loss of the life they could have had. "How can I provide the court the impact of a lost future and what would have potentially been 30 or 40 years filled with love, with family, with joy, with laughter?" he asked, according to MPR. "I cannot, except to say: The day of July 15, 2017, was the last time I felt happiness, a sense of trust and that everything could be OK."

Speaking through a family representative, Ruszczyk's father, who lives in Australia, called for the harshest possible sentence for Noor, saying he "will never be whole."

"I ask that this convicted murderer be given the maximum sentence for the crime of killing my daughter," John Ruszczyk said.

Noor was one of two responding officers to the 911 call. According to the Hennepin County Attorney, when Noor and his partner arrived, they parked in the alley behind Ruszczyk's home. Minutes later she approached the driver's side of the squad car. Noor, who was in the passenger seat and later explained he was frightened by a loud noise and feared for his partner's life, shot the 40-year-old woman dressed in pajamas through the open driver's side window.

She was unarmed.

Muna Abdi of Minneapolis stands outside the courtroom during the sentencing of Mohamed Noor on Friday, June 7 in Minneapolis. Abdi said Noor was treated differently because he is a black Muslim and she wanted to stand in solidarity with him.
Amy Forliti / AP

The case ignited racial and religious tensions in Minneapolis. Noor is Muslim and of Somali descent.

It also spiraled into an international incident because of Ruszczyk's Australian roots. Ultimately, the killing lead to the resignation of Minneapolis' former police chief Janee Harteau.

Noor had been with the police force for two years at the time of the shooting. MPR reported he is "the only law enforcement officer ever convicted of murder in Minnesota for an on-duty incident."

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