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‘It took killing a white woman’ Minnesota cop gets 12 years in Justine Ruszczyk Damond shooting death

Mohamed Noor sentenced
Mohamed Noor sentenced: Pictured the former Minneapolis police officer and shot woman,
Mohamed Noor sentenced
Mohamed Noor sentenced: Pictured the former Minneapolis police officer and shot woman, Justine Damond.

Mohamed Noor sentenced to 12 years jail. Former Minneapolis police officer jailed following shooting death of unarmed white woman, Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

A former Minneapolis police officer was on Friday sentenced to 12 years in prison for the fatal shooting of an unarmed Australian-American yoga teacher after she had called police to report a possible sexual assault in an alleyway outside her home.

Mohamed Noor, 33, was convicted on April 30 of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the 2017 killing 40-year-old Justine Ruszczyk Damond outside her home near Minneapolis.

Noor was acquitted of a more serious charge of second-degree intentional murder cbsnews reported.

Although Noor’s lawyers had requested that his sentence be no longer than a year and a day in prison, Minnesota District Judge Kathryn Quaintance imposed a sentence that was in line with what prosecutors had requested.

The law does not allow license because someone is a ‘good person,’ Quaintance said in imposing a sentence of 150 months. ‘Good people sometimes do bad things.’

Mohamed Noor sentenced: Justine Damond shooting death stoked concerns of police excess use of violence.

The case had drawn global attention because of the victim’s nationality, Noor’s Somali American background, and the unusual circumstances leading up to the shooting. Also of contention is the fact that previous instances of ‘police brutality,’ or killing of unarmed individual’s only became a point of contention because the victim this time was a white woman as opposed to so often a black man.

Prior to being sentenced, Noor, his voice breaking as he spoke about the shooting for the first time, said he couldn’t apologize enough.

‘I have lived with this and I will continue to live with this,’ Noor said. ‘I caused this tragedy and it is my burden. I wish though that I could relieve that burden others feel from the loss that I caused. I cannot, and that is a troubling reality for me.’

Noor said from the moment he pulled the trigger he felt fear and when he saw her body on the ground he was horrified.

‘Seeing her there, I knew in an instant I was wrong,’ Noor said. ‘The depth of my error has only increased from that moment on. Working to save her life and watching her slip away is a feeling I can’t explain. … It leaves me sad, it leaves me numb, and feeling incredibly lonely. But none of that, none of those words capture what it truly feels like.’

Mohamed Noor sentenced. Justine Damond and her fiance.

Mohamed Noor sentenced: Arguing for leniency. 

Noor’s attorneys argued in a court filing ahead of Friday’s sentencing that nobody would benefit from a long sentence, and that being in prison would keep Noor from making amends for killing Damond by doing good works in the community. 

They submitted letters of support that they said showed that Noor is a kind and peaceful man who has tried to be a bridge between Somali Americans in Minnesota and the larger community.

Tom Plunkett, Noor’s attorney, made the case for a lenient sentence saying the victim can’t be forgotten but what’s best for the community and Noor must also be considered.

‘I have never stood up at sentencing with anyone my entire career that’s done more or worked harder to be a good person, to earn the gifts he’s been given,‘ Plunkett said. ‘That’s who Mohamed Noor is.’

Prosecutor Amy Sweasy had called for the 12.5-year sentence recommended under state guidelines.

‘The law is not concerned necessarily with what’s good for the community,’ Sweasy said. ‘The court must give a sentence proportional in severity to the crime committed.’ 

Don Damond, Justine’s fiance, said in court Friday that every time he sees the alley where she walked barefoot and in her pajamas toward Noor’s police car he relives the moment.

‘In my mind I beg you to turn around,’ he said, speaking of a ‘lost future’ of decades filled with ‘love, family, joy and laughter.’ He said Justine was his soul mate and he misses her “every day, every moment.’

‘We both lived with our hearts open, caring for others,’ an emotional Damond said.

Ruszczyk Damond was a dual citizen of the US and Australia living in Minnesota. She was set to marry Don Damond, who is American, a month after the shooting. 

Noor testified during his trial that a loud bang on the squad car scared him and his partner, and that he saw a woman at his partner’s window raising her arm. He said he fired to protect his partner’s life. But prosecutors criticized Noor for shooting without seeing a weapon or Damond’s hands, and disputed whether either of them really heard a bang.

Justine’s father, John Ruszczyk, in a statement read in court, asked for the maximum sentence and called her killing ‘an obscene act by an agent of the state.’

‘Justine’s death has left me incomplete – it is as if I have lost a limb or a leg,’ he said in the statement. ‘I have lost my daughter, I have lost those private conversations over tea.’

Mohamed Noor sentenced: A question of race and identity politics. 

The case was also fraught with race. Damond was white, and Noor is Somali American, leading some to question whether the case would have been handled the same if the victim had been black and the officer white.

Before the incident, Noor had been celebrated by city officials after becoming the precinct’s first Somali American police officer in a state with a large Somali population. He is now is the first officer in Minnesota to be convicted in an on-duty shooting in decades.

Of note, the city agreed to a $20 million settlement with Damond’s family soon after Noor’s conviction in April.

Leading into Friday’s sentencing, the defense team had proposed to Judge Quaintance that she creatively sentence Noor to turn himself in to a county detention facility for a week every year on the anniversary of Damond’s death and on her birthday while he was on probation. They also proposed an annual period of community service.

Under Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, Noor’s presumptive sentence for third-degree murder was 12.5years, although the judge had the flexibility to impose a sentence anywhere from about 11 to 15 years without providing justification.  

Noor had been held since his conviction in the most secure unit at the state’s maximum security prison in Oak Park Heights for his own safety, Corrections Department spokeswoman Sarah Fitzgerald said Thursday.     

The former cop must serve two-thirds of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.