Ex-Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor to serve 2 more years after murder conviction overturned

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Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, whose murder conviction was overturned last month in the 2017 fatal shooting of an unarmed woman, was resentenced Thursday morning on a lesser charge.

Noor, 36, would serve 57 months on second-degree manslaughter, a judge ruled Thursday. He already has served more than 29 months, which means he faces about two years and four months in jail.

Noor shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond, 40, in July 2017 when she approached Noor's police car after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her Minneapolis home.

The case drew widespread media attention because Noor was thought to be the first Minnesota officer to be convicted of murder for an on-duty shooting. Before his case, the police officers involved in the high-profile shooting deaths of two Black men, Jamar Clark in 2015 and Philando Castile in 2016, had been cleared.

Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance said Noor's case is emblematic of larger issues within the police department and said many of the questions and concerns jurors brought up in the previous trial remain unanswered.

"Minneapolis residents await the promised transformation, and the questions of the jurors remain unanswered," Quaintance said. "What has changed? What will change so that this does not happen again? ... The people of Minneapolis need and deserve answers."

Black cop's murder conviction overturned: For Minneapolis' Somali community, justice is complicated

Why was Noor's murder conviction overturned?

Noor was initially convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter. He was sentenced to 12½ years on the murder count. But the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed his murder conviction last month, arguing it didn't fit the crime.

The language for Minnesota's third-degree murder notes that the action must be “eminently dangerous to others.” In Noor's case, the lower court uniquely interpreted the charge to apply to a fatal act directed at a single victim, said Sarah Davis, executive director of the Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis.

So in September, the Supreme Court threw out the third-degree murder conviction, sending his case back to a lower court for sentencing on the manslaughter count.

On Thursday, Noor received the maximum sentence in state sentencing guidelines for people facing a second-degree manslaughter charge with no prior criminal history.

Family decries decision

Thursday's sentencing began with statements from Ruszczyk Damond's family, including her sister-in-law, Katarina Ruszczyk, who said the family had entrusted the legal process to ensure justice.

"I feel tired. I feel betrayed," she said. "And I feel angry at how this process has ended."

She called for systemic changes within the Minneapolis Police Department to ensure accountability for police officers.

Jason Ruszczyk, Justine's brother, said memories of the first trial are often the last thing he thinks of when he goes to sleep at night.

"I wish for my sister's smile and her warm hugs to be present in my life until we grow old," he said.

Don Damond, who was engaged to Justine, criticized the Minnesota Supreme Court decision to overturn Noor's initial sentence, saying that it "doesn't diminish the truth which was uncovered during the trial."

But he said he would forgive Noor, saying his fiance was a "unifer" who stood for justice.

"She taught that all people deserve mercy and that all people can transform," he said. "And I have no doubt that she would have forgiven you, Mohamed.

"All I ask is that you use this experience to do good for other people," he added. "Be the example of how to transform beyond adversity."

Before he was sentenced, Noor said he was "deeply grateful" for Don Damond's forgiveness, adding that he "will take his advice and be a unifier."

Who is Mohamed Noor, and what happened?

Noor, who is Somali American, joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 2015.

In July 2017, Damond, a dual U.S.-Australian citizen, called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home. She approached Noor's squad car in an alley, and Noor said he fired his weapon because he heard a loud bang on his vehicle and feared for his partner's safety. He later admitted he was wrong for shooting Damond.

At his 2019 trial, Noor said he feared for his life after hearing a loud bang on his police car as he and his partner drove through an alley. After seeing a woman raise her arm near her partner's window, Noor said he fired a shot to stop what he perceived to be a threat.

Noor apologized to Damond's family during the sentencing, saying "I caused this tragedy, and it is my burden."

What happened after the shooting?

After he was charged, Noor was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, which also responded by revising its body camera policy. Noor and his partner did not have their body cameras activated during the shooting. Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau later resigned.

Days after Noor was first convicted, Minneapolis agreed to pay $20 million to Damond's family in what was believed to be the state's largest settlement related to police violence at the time.

Since then, Minneapolis agreed to a $27 million settlement with the family of George Floyd, who was murdered by former police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020, prompting a nationwide outcry.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mohamed Noor sentenced to 57 months for Justine Damond manslaughter

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