AP

Cop who shot 911 caller gets 12½ years; apologizes in court

Jun 7, 2019, 12:21 PM | Updated: 1:25 pm
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor reads a statement Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapol...
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor reads a statement Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Noor, convicted of shooting an unarmed woman to death as she walked toward his cruiser says he can't apologize enough "for taking the life of a perfect person. He sentenced Friday to 121/2 years in prison for the shooting. (Leila Navidi//Star Tribune via AP, Pool)
(Leila Navidi//Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed an unarmed woman who had called 911 said Friday he “knew in an instant I was wrong” and apologized to her family, just moments before a judge brushed off a defense request for leniency and ordered him to prison for 12½ years.

Mohamed Noor was convicted in April of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the July 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia. Noor shot Damond when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home.

Noor’s lawyers had argued for a light sentence, saying sending him to prison would only compound the tragedy and keep him from doing service to make amends.

But Judge Kathryn Quaintance sentenced Noor, 33, to a term identical to 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.”

Noor, his voice breaking several times as he spoke publicly about the shooting for the first time, apologized repeatedly to Damond and her family for “taking the life of a perfect person.”

“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 he was horrified to see Damond’s body on the ground.

“The depth of my error has only increased from that moment on,” he said. “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.”

The Noor case has been fraught by race from the start. Noor is Somali American and Damond was white; some in the community argued it was treated differently that police shootings in which the victims were black and the officers were white.

One activist at the courthouse Friday carried a sign that had the words “Black, Muslim, Immigrant and Guilty” with boxes checked next to each word. Another read: “NOOR: Victim of Identity Politics.”

Noor’s attorneys had 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, asked Quaintance for a sentence as lenient as probation. He described Noor’s desire to become a police officer in part to repay a debt he felt to the country that took him in long ago as a refugee.

“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.”

But prosecutor Amy Sweasy called for the recommended 12½ years. She noted that Damond had called 911 seeking help.

“And it was the defendant’s responsibility when he encountered her in that alley to investigate and appreciate and discern that before he pulled the trigger,” she said. “That was his responsibility, and his failure to do that is what resulted in the criminal act.”

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 the 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 with “a Muppetlike way of being in the world.”

“We both lived with our hearts open, caring for others,” an emotional Don Damond said.

Noor testified during his trial that a loud bang on the squad car startled 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.”

Noor sat quietly at the defense table with hands clasped, staring straight ahead and showing no emotion as victim impact statements were read.

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. He was kept alone in his cell but had the same privileges as other prisoners in the unit and was let out for recreation time, she said.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...
ALI ABDUL-HASSAN and ABBY SEWELL Associated Press

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
5 days ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
7 days ago
The U.S. Coast Guard ship Bernard C. Webber, leaves the coast guard base, Monday, July 19, 2021, in...
Associated Press

‘Miracle’: Missing cruise ship passenger found OK in water

The U.S. Coast Guard says a passenger who went overboard from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico was rescued on Thanksgiving after likely being in the water for hours.
8 days ago
FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
9 days ago
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart ...
The Associated Press

Walmart shooter left ‘death note,’ bought gun day of killing

According to authorities in Virginia, the Walmart shooter bought his gun just hours prior to killing six employees.
9 days ago
Dry lakebed...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawsuit looms over tiny fish in drought-stricken West

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delayed decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week […]
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Cop who shot 911 caller gets 12½ years; apologizes in court