Minnesota ex-cop resentenced to 57 months for killing woman

Mohamed Noor claims he feared for his safety and that of his police partner when he shot the unarmed woman.

Lawyers for former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, pictured in 2019, had sought a sentence of 41 months in jail at his resentencing, arguing he has been a 'model prisoner' [File: Craig Lassig/Reuters]

A former Minneapolis police officer has been resentenced to 57 months in jail in the shooting death of an unarmed woman in 2017 after his initial conviction was overturned last month.

Mohamed Noor, 35, was resentenced on Thursday to the maximum amount of jail time possible. His lawyers had sought the minimum 41 months available under sentencing guidelines, arguing the former officer had been a “model prisoner”.

Noor had been sentenced to 12.5 years in jail in 2019 for his role in shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond, 40, who had called the police to report hearing a possible rape happening behind her house.

In her decision, Minnesota District Judge Kathryn Quaintance noted that Noor fired “across the nose” of his partner in the squad car on the night of July 15, 2017, when residents of a nearby house were entertaining on their porch. Noor fired his gun at Damond, a dual US-Australian citizen, from the passenger seat as she approached the police vehicle, killing her.

“These factors of endangering the public make your crime of manslaughter appropriate for high end of the guidelines,” the judge told Noor. He had been on the job for less than two years when the shooting happened.

Noor testified during his trial that he fired towards Damond from the passenger seat of the vehicle after hearing a loud noise that prompted him to fear for himself and his police partner.

State investigators said Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, had not turned on their body cameras on the night of the killing and squad car video did not capture the shooting.

In 2019, a jury acquitted Noor of second-degree murder but convicted him of third-degree “depraved-mind murder” and second-degree manslaughter.

The killing lead Damond’s family to file a lawsuit against Noor and the city of Minneapolis, which eventually agreed to pay a settlement worth $20m.

The shooting led to the resignation of Minneapolis’s police chief. It also ignited debates about race and policing in the US. Noor, who is Somali American, was believed to be the first Minnesota officer convicted of murder for an on-duty shooting. Damond was white.

Noor had already spent about 2.5 years in jail when he was resentenced on Thursday.

Judge Quaintance, who imposed the original sentence in June 2019, rejected Noor’s good-behaviour prison record as grounds for a reduced sentence.

At his 2019 sentencing hearing, Noor apologised for the incident. “I can’t apologise enough and I will never be able to make up the loss that I caused to Miss Ruszczyk’s family,” he said.

Under current sentencing rules, Noor could be freed under supervised release by the middle of next year if he maintains good behaviour.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies