Former Police Officer Who Killed 911 Caller Now in Prison Outside Minnesota

Former Police Officer Who Killed 911 Caller Now in Prison Outside Minnesota
Justine Damond (L), also known as Justine Ruszczyk, from Sydney. (Stephen Govel Photography/Handout via Reuters); Minneapolis Police Department Officer Mohamed Noor. (City of Minneapolis Ward 8 Update Newsletter)

A former Minneapolis police officer sentenced to more than 12 years for fatally shooting a woman who called 911 to report a possible crime has been moved to a prison outside of Minnesota.

A representative of the Minnesota Department of Corrections told KSTP-TV that Mohamed Noor has been moved to an out-of-state prison but said the location is not public.

mohamed noor sentenced
In this April 26, 2019, file photo, former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor walks to court in Minneapolis. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, File)

Noor shot 40-year-old Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, in the alley behind her home on July 15, 2017, after she called 911 to report what she thought was a woman being assaulted.

Noor was convicted of third-degree murder in April in the shooting of Damond, who was unarmed. A judge sentenced Noor in June to more than 12 years in prison.

‘I Was Wrong’

Noor said on June 7 that he “knew in an instant that I was wrong” and apologized to Damond’s family, just moments before a judge brushed off a defense request for leniency and ordered him to prison for 12½ years.

The stiff sentence for Mohamed Noor capped a case that had been fraught by race from the start. Noor, a Somali American, shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a upper-middle-class dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home in July 2017.

Noor, 33, testified at trial that a loud bang on the squad car startled him and his partner and that he fired to protect his partner’s life. But prosecutors criticized Noor for shooting without seeing a weapon or Damond’s hands, and in April, a jury convicted him of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The sentencing was marked by emotional statements from Noor, Damond’s fiance and his son, and her family in Australia, who said they continue to struggle with the loss of a kind and generous person who had filled their lives with joy and laughter. Damond was a 40-year-old life coach who was due to be married a month after her death.

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 such a perfect person.”

NTD Photo
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor and his attorney Tom Plunkett (L) leave the Hennepin County jail after posting bail in Minneapolis, Minn., U.S. March 21, 2018. (Reuters/Craig Lassig)

“I have lived with this and I’ll 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 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. I can say it leaves me sad, it leaves me numb, and a feeling of incredibly lonely. But none of that, none of those words, capture what it truly feels like.”

Noor’s attorneys had argued for a sentence as light as probation, but Judge Kathryn Quaintance swept that aside for a term identical to state sentencing guidelines.

“The act may have been based on a miscalculation, but it was an intentional act,” Quaintance said. “Good people sometimes do bad things.”

Tom Plunkett, Noor’s attorney, had 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.

Mohamed Noor
In this May 8, 2018, file photo, former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor arrives at the Hennepin County Government Center for a hearing in Minneapolis. Noor is charged in the July 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, of Australia, who had called 911 to report a possible assault. (Jim Mone/AP)

“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.”

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.”

Don Damond, Justine Damond’s fiance, said in court 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.”

Noor sat quietly at the defense table with hands clasped, eyes usually closed and showing no emotion as victim impact statements were read.

Noor was returned after his sentencing to the state’s maximum security prison in Oak Park Heights, where he has been held since his conviction in a secure unit for his safety. Under Minnesota law, he would serve two-thirds of his sentence in prison, assuming good behavior, and the remaining third on supervised release.

His lawyers said they were disappointed in the sentence and hinted that they plan to appeal, which they have 90 days to do.

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