Mohamed Noor was convicted of
third-degree murder and also found guilty of manslaughter in the July
2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond
Yesterday at 6:09 PM
By Amy Forliti Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS — A Minneapolis police officer was
convicted of third-degree murder Tuesday in the fatal shooting of an
unarmed woman who approached his squad car minutes after calling 911 to
report a possible rape behind her home, a rare instance of an officer
being convicted after asserting he fired in a life-or-death situation.
Noor was also found guilty of manslaughter in the July 2017 death
of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old dual citizen of the U.S. and
Australia whose death bewildered and angered people in both countries.
Noor, a two-year veteran who had said he felt "called to serve" as a
police officer and shifted from a career in business, was acquitted of
the most serious charge of intentional second-degree murder. But he
still faces a presumptive sentence of up to 17 years on the two
Noor was handcuffed and taken into custody
immediately despite his attorney's request that he be free on bond
pending sentencing June 7. He showed no visible emotion and did not look
back at his family, but his wife was crying.
Members of Damond's family, also in the courtroom, showed no evident emotion.
the tragic circumstances of the shooting, the case also carried
elements of race and immigration. Damond, 40, was white; Noor, 33, is
among the many Somali immigrants who settled in Minnesota after coming
to America due to civil war in his home country.
Jurors deliberated about five hours Monday and 6½ on Tuesday before reaching a decision.
murder charge means causing the death of another through a dangerous
act "without regard for human life but without intent to cause" death.
The presumptive sentence is about 12½ years. Second-degree manslaughter,
defined as creating unreasonable risk of causing death or great bodily
harm to another through culpable negligence, has a presumptive sentence
of about 4½ years.
Noor and his partner were rolling down the
alley behind Damond's home and checking out the 911 call just before the
shooting. Noor testified that a loud bang on the squad car scared his
partner and that he saw a woman raising her arm appear at his partner's
window. He said he fired to protect his partner's life.
attacked Noor for shooting without seeing a weapon or Damond's hands.
They also questioned whether the loud bang was real. Neither Noor nor
his partner, Matthew Harrity, mentioned it to investigators at the
scene, with Harrity first mentioning it three days later in an interview
with state investigators. Noor refused to talk to investigators.
death of Damond, a life coach who was engaged to be married a month
after the shooting, sparked outrage in both the U.S. and Australia. It
also cost Minneapolis' police chief her job and contributed to the
electoral defeat of the city's mayor a few months later.
became a police officer with a mid-career switch from jobs in the
business world. He testified that he became a police officer because he
"wanted to serve," and his hiring two years before the shooting was
celebrated by Minneapolis leaders eager for a more diversified police
force in a city with a large population of Somali immigrants.
He was fired after being charged.
officer had a body camera running when Damond was shot, something
Harrity blamed on what he called a vague policy that didn't require it.
Both men switched on their cameras in time to capture the aftermath,
which included their attempts to save Damond with CPR. But Noor's bullet
hit her in a key abdominal artery, and a medical examiner testified she
lost so much blood so quickly that even faster medical care might not
have saved her.
Prosecutors sought to raise questions about the
way police and state investigators handled the aftermath. They played
excerpts from body cameras worn by responding officers that revealed
many officers turning them on and off at will; one officer could be
heard on his camera at one point telling Noor to "keep your mouth shut
until you have to say anything to anybody." They also highlighted the
lack of forensic evidence proving Damond touched the squad car.
the case still came down to jurors' assessment of whether Noor was
justified in shooting, and they had only the officers' testimony for a
picture of the key moments. During his closing argument Monday, defense
attorney Thomas Plunkett told jurors all that mattered was the "precise
moment" in which Noor fired his gun and that they needed to consider
whether Noor acted as a reasonable officer would act in the same
circumstances. Prosecutor Amy Sweasy argued the shooting was not
In his only public statement about the shooting, Noor
testified that after he heard the loud noise, he saw fear in Harrity's
eyes and heard his partner yell, "Oh Jesus!" as he went for his weapon.
Noor said Harrity was having difficulty pulling his gun from his
holster. Noor said he then saw a woman in a pink shirt with blond hair
appear at Harrity's window and raise her right arm.
"I fired one shot," he said, later adding: "My intent was to stop the threat and save my partner's life."
was pressed by prosecutors about why he didn't fire. He said he hadn't
evaluated whether there was a threat by the time Noor fired. When Sweasy
asked Harrity whether it would have been premature for him to use
deadly force, he said: "Yes, with what I had."
Both officers testified of their trust and high regard for each other. Both cried at points during their testimony.
The jury included 10 men and two women. Six of the jurors, including the two women, are people of color.