Cop Who Fatally Shot Unarmed 911 Caller to Be Resentenced After Murder Conviction Tossed

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor will be sentenced on a lesser charge Thursday after a murder conviction against him was overturned on September 15, the Associated Press reporter.

Noor, who was fired from the police force after he was charged, had been convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond on July of 2017.

Damond was a 40-year-old dual U.S.-Australian citizen and yoga teacher who called 911 to report hearing a possible rape happening near her home. She was unarmed at the time that she was shot and killed.

During his 2019 trial, Noor testified that he was driving down an alley with his partner when a loud bang on their police SUV startled them. He told the court a woman appeared at his partner's window and raised her right arm. Believing she was a threat, he fired a shot from the passenger seat.

Noor was sentenced to 12 1/2 years on the murder count. He was serving the sentence when the Minnesota Supreme Court threw out his murder conviction and sentence. The court stated the third-degree murder statute didn't fit the facts of the case.

However, Noor is still convicted of second-degree manslaughter. That conviction carries a sentence that ranges from 41 to 57 months. He has already served more than 29 months on the overturned murder conviction.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

 Mohamed Noor
Former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor will be resentenced Thursday after his murder conviction was overturned last month. Above, Noor reads a statement before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond at the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on June 7, 2019. getty

Noor's attorneys, Tom Plunkett and Peter Wold, have asked for a 41-month term, saying the low end of the range would reflect Noor's good behavior behind bars and the harsh conditions he has faced during several months in segregation from the general prison population. Legal experts expect prosecutors to seek a sentence at the top end of the range.

In Minnesota, defendants with good behavior typically serve two-thirds of their prison sentences and the remainder on supervised release. If Noor receives the presumptive four years for manslaughter, he could be eligible for supervised release around the end of this year.

If the judge agrees with the defense and sentences Noor to 41 months, he could be placed on supervised release very soon.

Marsh Halberg, a Minneapolis defense attorney who is not connected to the case, predicted that Judge Kathryn Quaintance would sentence Noor to four years. However, he said: "The right thing to do would be to give him the low end...because he's been in solitary."

Noor has the right to make a statement at Thursday's hearing, though it was not immediately clear if he would. At his June 7, 2019, sentencing, he got emotional as he expressed regret for what he had done and apologized to Damond's family.

"I caused this tragedy, and it is my burden," he said at the time, adding: "I can't apologize enough and I will never be able to make up the loss that I caused to Miss Ruszczyk's family."

Victims are expected to make statements. Prosecutors say Damond's family members, who came from Australia for the 2019 trial, will not appear in person but might appear live via video.

Damond's death angered citizens in the U.S. and Australia, and led to the resignation of Minneapolis' police chief. It also led the department to change its policy on body cameras; Noor and his partner didn't have theirs activated when they were investigating Damond's 911 call.

Noor, who is Somali American, was believed to be the first Minnesota officer convicted of murder for an on-duty shooting. Activists who had long called for officers to be held accountable for the deadly use of force applauded the murder conviction but lamented that it came in a case in which the officer is Black and his victim was white. Some questioned whether the case was treated the same as police shootings involving Black victims.

Days after Noor's conviction, Minneapolis agreed to pay $20 million to Damond's family. It was believed to be the largest settlement stemming from police violence in Minnesota to that point, with Mayor Jacob Frey citing Noor's unprecedented conviction for the large settlement.

But the state Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the murder conviction didn't fit the evidence, saying third-degree murder can only apply when a defendant shows a "generalized indifference to human life," not when the conduct is directed at a particular person, as it was with Damond.

The decision devastated Damond's loved ones. Her fiancé, Don Damond—she had been using his last name even though their wedding was a month away when she was killed—said at the time of the ruling: "None of this can hurt my heart more than it has been, but now it truly feels like there has been no justice for Justine."

But others said it was the right decision.

"This should've never been allowed to go to trial on that [murder] charge," said Halberg. "It may feel good to charge something like that because it sounds like you are being more zealous as a prosecutor, but the law doesn't fit."

Since Noor's case, another former Minnesota officer was convicted of murder. Derek Chauvin was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years on the second-degree murder count. It's likely his third-degree murder conviction will be overturned given the Noor ruling, but the second-degree murder count is expected to stand, legal experts said.

Minneapolis reached a $27 million settlement with Floyd's family.