Minneapolis, MN – The former Minneapolis police officer convicted of shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond after she called 911 to report a suspected crime in the alley behind her house was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in prison on Friday.
Judge Kathryn Quaintance sentenced former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor on June 7 to exactly the amount of time prosecutors had asked for, a term identical to state sentencing guidelines, the Associated Press reported.
A jury convicted Noor in the fatal shooting of Damond on April 30.
The jury found that Noor did not act with intent to kill, but instead acted recklessly with a “depraved” mind and no intent to kill.
The now-infamous shooting of the Australian woman on July 15, 2017 occurred when 32-year-old Officer Noor and his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, responded to Damond’s 911 call, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
With Officer Noor in the passenger seat, Officer Harrity pulled into the alleyway behind Damond’s house with the patrol car’s headlights deactivated, and removed the safety hood from the holster of his duty weapon.
He said that he heard a dog barking as he neared Damond’s home, and that he slowed the vehicle to two miles per hour, but never stopped.
Approximately two minutes later, the officers approached the end of the alley, and waited for a bicyclist to pass as they cleared from the call.
Officer Harrity said that moments later, he heard a voice and a thump towards the rear of the patrol car, and then “caught a glimpse of a person’s head and shoulder’s outside his window.”
He said that the person, later identified as Damond, was approximately two feet away, and that he could not see her hands, and did not know if she had any weapons.
The startled officer recalled having said, “Oh s**t,” or “Oh Jesus,” and grabbed for his duty weapon, believing his life was in danger. He said he drew the weapon and held it to his rib cage, pointed downwards.
Officer Harrity said that he then heard a noise “that sounded like a light bulb dropping on the floor, and saw a flash.”
After checking to see if he had been shot, Officer Harrity said he realized that Officer Noor’s right arm was extended towards him, and that Damond was standing outside the driver’s side window with her hands on the left side of her abdomen, covering a gunshot wound.
She said, “‘I’m dying,’ or ‘I’m dead,’” according to the court documents.
Officer Harrity rushed to her aid, and told Officer Noor to re-holster his weapon and to activate his bodycam.
He initiated CPR, and Officer Noor eventually took over. Damond died at the scene.
At trial, Officer Noor claimed he had no other choice but to shoot Damond, and that he did not need to wait to see a weapon in order to respond with deadly force.
Officers can use deadly force before they see a weapon, but only if a reasonable officer in that same situation would have believed that the suspect posed a deadly threat.
Noor offered no reasonable explanation for why he thought Damond was a threat at all.
But at his sentencing, Noor apologized for “taking the life of a perfect person” and said he knew he had made an error the instant that he fired his gun, CBS News reported.
“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’s attorney sought leniency from the judge based on his client’s lifelong desire to become a police officer to replay his debt to the country that had taken him in as a refugee, according to CBS News.
Prosecutor Amy Sweasy hammered home the fact that Damond had called 911 for help when she was fatally shot by Noor.
“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,” Sweasy argued. “That was his responsibility, and his failure to do that is what resulted in the criminal act.”
Noor had been a police officer for two years when the shooting occurred.
He is “the only law enforcement officer ever convicted of murder in Minnesota for an on-duty incident,” according to Minnesota Public Radio.