Ex-Minneapolis Cop Gets New 57-Month Sentence in 911 Caller's Killing, Already Served 29

A former Minneapolis police officer charged in the shooting of an unarmed woman in 2017 was sentenced to nearly five years in prison on Thursday after his conviction and 12.5-year sentence were overturned in September, the Associated Press reported.

Mohamad Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter after he fatally shot an unarmed woman, Justine Ruszcky Damond, 40, after she called 911 reporting a possible rape behind her house. Since his conviction, Noor has served more than 29 months in prison.

The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the verdict and sentence, claiming the third-degree murder statute did not apply to the case, as the defendant did not show "a generalized indifference to human life," as the conduct was directed at a particular person.

Don Damond, Justine Damond's fiance, criticized the state for the reversal, saying it "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," Damond said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Ex-Minneapolis Cop Gets New 57-Month Sentence
A former police officer charged in the shooting death of an unarmed woman in 2017 was sentenced to nearly five years in prison on Thursday after his conviction and 12.5-year sentence were overturned in September. Above, former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor at Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis on June 7, 2019. Leila Navidi/Star Tribune/Associated Press

Judge Kathryn Quaintance, who also presided at Noor's trial, granted prosecutors' request to impose the maximum sentence in state guidelines on Noor's manslaughter conviction, 57 months. In doing so, she brushed aside the defense's request for 41 months, which is the low end of the range. With good behavior, Noor could be freed on supervised release by next summer.

"Mr. Noor, I am not surprised that you have been a model prisoner," Quaintance said. "However, I do not know any authority that would make that grounds for reducing your sentence." She cited Noor "shooting across the nose of your partner" and endangering others the night of the shooting to hand down the stiffest sentence she could.

Quaintance also remarked that because neither side had sought a departure from the sentencing guidelines, she was unable to deviate from them.

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.

Noor's appeal of his murder conviction was watched closely for implications in the case of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer convicted of the same charge in George Floyd's death. After the state Supreme Court overturned Noor's third-degree murder conviction, experts said they expected the same eventual result for Chauvin but that it would likely have little impact because Chauvin was also convicted of a more serious second-degree murder charge in Floyd's death. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years.

Noor's attorneys, Tom Plunkett and Peter Wold, sought 41 months at the resentencing, citing Noor's good behavior behind bars and harsh conditions he faced during many months in solitary, away from the general prison population.

Plunkett said Thursday that much attention has been given to the victim as a kind and giving person—"all true," he said. But Plunkett said there is "similar goodness" in Noor. He said Noor had always sought to help people around him, and recapped Noor's good behavior while in prison.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy, meanwhile, asked Quaintance to give Noor the longest possible sentence. She said the case "is worse than typical" because of who Noor is. "The most serious sentence this court can impose is required," she said.

Damond's parents, John Ruszczyk and Maryan Heffernan, also asked the judge to impose the longest sentence. In a statement read by prosecutors, they called Damond's death "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.

But Don 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."

Noor, wearing a suit and tie and donning a face mask, appeared impassive as the victim's loved ones' statements were read. He later addressed the court briefly, saying, "I'm deeply grateful for Mr. Damond's forgiveness. I am deeply sorry for the pain that I've caused that family. And I will take his advice and be a unifier. Thank you."

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, believed at the time to be the largest settlement stemming from police violence in Minnesota. It was surpassed earlier this year when Minneapolis agreed to a $27 million settlement in Floyd's death just as Chauvin was going on trial.