Tag Archive: Mohamed Noor


 

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A Minneapolis judge sentenced Mohamed Noor, the former police officer who shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017, to 12.5 years in prison. In April, Noor was found guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Noor’s lawyers had argued for a light sentence but Judge Kathryn Quaintance sentenced the 33-year-old Noor to the identical sentence recommended under state guidelines.

Speaking in court before the sentence was read, Noor said that he had felt “fear” as he pulled the trigger. But when he saw Ruszczyk Damond on the ground, “I knew in an instant that I was wrong.  I caused this tragedy and it is my burden,” he said. “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. I will think about Ms. Ruszczyk and her family forever. The only thing I can do is try to live my life in a good way going forward.”

The court also heard from Don Damond, Ruszczyk Damond’s fiancé, during an emotional victim impact statement that the day of her death was “the last time I felt a sense of happiness, a sense of trust and that everything could be OK.”  “How do I sum up the pain, the trauma, of these last 23 months… How can I provide the court the impact of a lost future? What would have potentially been 30 to 40 years filled with love, with family, with joy, with laughter,” he said.

The July 15, 2017, shooting occurred after Ruszczyk Damond called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in an alley behind her home.  When Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity arrived, Ruszczyk Damond approached the driver’s side of the squad car in her pajamas.  Harrity testified, he heard a “thump” and a “murmur.” Noor, who was seated in the passenger seat, shot Ruszczyk in the abdomen through the open driver’s-side window of the vehicle as she approached his police cruiser.  Noor testified that he feared for his partner’s life as Ruszczyk approached their squad car in the dark, empty alley.

Noor testified that Harrity’s terrified expression and the sight of Ruszczyk with her hand raised jolted him into action. Although he did not see a gun in Ruszczyks’ hand, he feared his partner might be shot as she began to raise her hand, he said.  Noor’s lawyers maintained at trial that Noor “acted as he has been trained” and that he should never have been charged with a crime.

“The narrative behind this tragedy really began long before the events that occurred in that alley,” Noor’s defense attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said on Friday. “Ms. Ruszczyk was doing her civic duty, she didn’t deserve this.” But he said that the fear that exists between police and members of the public was behind what happened that night.  “A prison sentence only punishes Mr. Noor for a culture that he didn’t create,” his lawyer said.

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A jury has found former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor guilty of third-degree murder and second degree manslaughter in the killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian woman who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. The jury of ten men and two women acquitted Noor on an additional count of second-degree murder in the killing.  Noor faces up to 12 and a half years for third-degree murder and four years for second-degree manslaughter. His sentencing date is set for June 7.

For each charge, the jury had to unanimously decide whether they believed Noor was guilty or not guilty. Each charge Noor faced involved causing the death of Ruszczyk, but the three counts have different elements.  Second-degree murder means killing someone intentionally, but without premeditation.  Third-degree murder includes acting with a “depraved mind” — shooting without knowing the target — and “without regard for human life” in causing someone’s death, but without intending to do so.  Second-degree manslaughter is acting in a negligent way and creating an “unreasonable risk” in actions that cause death.

Noor’s lawyer said a “perfect storm” of events led him to open fire on Ruszczyk the night of July 15, 2017, when she called 911 to report a possible assault in progress in an alley behind her Minneapolis home.  Ruszczyk called police twice that night — once to report a possible assault, then to see where officers were.  When they arrived on the scene, Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity drove down an alley in south Minneapolis with their squad car’s lights down. They drove slowly and quietly.

Then, Harrity testified, he heard a “thump” and a “murmur.” Ruszczyk approached the officers on their vehicle’s driver’s side.  Noor, who was seated in the passenger seat, shot Ruszczyk through the open driver’s-side window of the vehicle as she approached his police cruiser in her pajamas.  Noor testified that he feared for his partner’s life as Ruszczyk approached their squad car in the dark, empty alley. But Hennepin County prosecutors said Noor overreacted and failed to properly assess the situation before firing a gunshot into Ruszczyk’s abdomen.  Ruszczyk was pronounced dead on the scene.

Sixty witnesses testified during the nearly month-long trial, including use-of-force experts, neighbors, and Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity.  Harrity was behind the wheel of their squad car when Noor shot Ruszczyk from the passenger seat. He testified that he was startled by a noise on the rear driver’s side door as Ruszczyk approached the vehicle.  Noor testified that Harrity’s terrified expression and the sight of Ruszczyk with her hand raised jolted him into action. Although he did not see a gun in Ruszczyks’ hand, he feared his partner might be shot as she began to raise her hand, he said.

Experts differed on whether Noor’s use of force was reasonable or justified.  The prosecution’s use of force expert said that Noor’s use of deadly force was unreasonable.  Being “startled” is different than “fearing death or great bodily harm.”  The defense’s use of force expert said Noor’s conduct was an “objectively reasonable” response to the situation.  “It’s late at night. It’s dark in the alley,” Kapelsohn said, noting Noor heard his partner say “oh Jesus.”

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, a police officer shot a 40-year-old bride-to-be in the alley behind her house.  According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Justine Ruszczyk, who often went by her fiance’s last name Damond, called 911just after 11:30 pm  to report a possible assault in an alley near her home. On the night of the shooting, Ruszczyk, who worked as a yoga and meditation instructor, called 911 twice, first to report a possible sexual assault and then again 8 minutes later to say no officers had arrived and the assault was still going on.

Officer Matthew Harrity, who was driving the squad car, indicated that they drove up to the alley with their lights off and windows down.  He said he was startled by a loud noise near the squad car and immediately afterwards Ruszczyk approached the driver’s side of his police cruiser in her pajamas. Officer Mohamed Noor, who was seated in the passenger seat, shot Ruszczyk through the open driver’s-side window of the vehicle, hitting her in the stomach.

The officers then reportedly tried to offer emergency medical care to Ruszczyk, but they were unable to revive her. She was pronounced dead at the scene.  The officers’ body cameras weren’t on during the shooting, and the police car’s camera apparently didn’t capture the incident.  It’s not clear what the “loud sound” was that Harrity reported hearing outside the squad right before the shooting, but dispatch audio did capture a report of “aerial fireworks” in the area.

The shooting quickly received international attention, because Ruszczyk, who moved to the United States in 2014, is from Australia and was set to marry her fiancé, Don Damond, next month.  Her family in Australia is now demanding a federal investigation into the shooting.  Both officers are on paid administrative leave, as is standard after a shooting.

Ruszczyk’s relatives say they’re still stunned the bride-to-be was killed by police — and they’ve hired an attorney with experience handling police-involved shootings.  “We are still trying to come to terms with this tragedy, and we are struggling to understand how and why this could happen,” the family said in the statement released to CNN.

The shooting is under investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Investigators reportedly interviewed Harrity but Noor has reportedly declined to be interviewed and has hired attorney Tom Plunkett.  Tom Plunkett, released a statement to the news media that said:  Officer Noor extends his condolences to the family and anyone else who has been touched by this event. He takes their loss seriously and keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers. He came to the United States at a young age and is thankful to have had so many opportunities.”

“ He takes these events very seriously because, for him, being a police officer is a calling. He joined the police force to serve the community and to protect the people he serves. Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves and he empathizes with the loss others are experiencing.  The current environment for police is difficult, but Officer Noor accepts this as part of his calling. We would like to say more, and will in the future. At this time, however, there are several investigations ongoing and Officer Noor wants to respect the privacy to the family and asks the same in return during this difficult period.”