US

Police Officer Who Shot Woman to Death Sentenced, Apologizes in Court

By Zachary Stieber

A Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder was sentenced Friday to 12 and a half years in prison for the shooting of an unarmed woman who had called 911, and he apologized in court for “taking the life of a perfect person.”

Mohamed Noor was convicted in April of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the July 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old dual citizen of the United States and Australia. Noor shot Damond when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home.

Noor’s lawyers had argued for a light sentence, saying sending him to prison would only compound the tragedy, and that incarceration won’t let him do service to make amends for killing Damond.

But Judge Kathryn Quaintance sentenced the 33-year-old to a sentence identical to the recommendation under state guidelines.

police officer sentenced in killing
A poster of Justine Ruszczyk Damond is displayed at a news conference by attorneys for her family in Minneapolis on July 23, 2018. (Amy Forliti/AP Photo)

An emotional Noor, his voice breaking as he spoke about the shooting for the first time, said he can’t apologize enough.

“I have lived with this and I will continue to live with this,” Noor said, as reported by CBS News. “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 from the moment he pulled the trigger he felt fear and when he saw her body on the ground he was horrified.

“Seeing her there, I knew in an instant I was wrong,” Noor said. “The depth of my error has only increased from that moment on. Working to save her life and watching her slip away is a feeling I can’t explain. … It leaves me sad, it leaves me numb, and feeling incredibly lonely. But none of that, none of those words capture what it truly feels like.”

In this May 2016 image provided by the City of Minneapolis, police officer Mohamed Noor poses for a photo at a community event welcoming him to the Minneapolis police force. (City of Minneapolis via AP, File)

Prior to the sentencing, prosecutor Amy Sweasy called for the 12 and a half-year sentence recommended under state guidelines.

“The law is not concerned necessarily with what’s good for the community,” Sweasy said. “The court must give a sentence proportional in severity to the crime committed.”

A jury convicted Noor in April of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the July 2017 death of Damond, a 40-year-old dual citizen of the United States and Australia who was engaged to be married a month after the shooting. Noor shot Damond when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home.

A memorial service for Justine Ruszczyk Damond
Johanna Morrow plays the didgeridoo during a memorial service for Justine Damond in Minneapolis, Minn., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Aaron Lavinsky /Star Tribune via AP)

Fiancé Responds

Don Damond, Justine Damond’s fiancé, said in a statement read in court that he lost his “beloved dearest friend.”

“Dear Justine, I miss you so much every day. Every moment,” he read from a letter to her. “I don’t understand how such a thing could happen to you and us.”

He said he saw the dress she was going to wear to their wedding in a store one week after she was killed.

“I’m sorry I told you to call police that night. I thought they would have helped you and helped that woman,” he said.

“I’m so sorry I had to sell our house which contained all those memories,” he also said. “Every time I went down that alley, I saw you walking in your pjs walking toward that police car toward that unexpected and violent death.”

“It was at my direction you summoned your own death,” he added. “I have to live with that for the rest of my life.”

Damond testified during the trial that his fiancé heard noises behind their house and called him; he was on a business trip. He advised her to call the police.

“All will be well,” he said he thought to himself after hanging up, reported the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

She called again to tell him that police officers had arrived at the house but she stopped responding to his texts and calls.

He got a phone call hours later from a police officer.

“He said, ‘Well, there’s been a shooting and we believe Justine is deceased as a result of that shooting,'” Damond testified. “And I, I, um, I, I was like—I couldn’t believe it. What do you mean shooting?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.