A former Minneapolis police officer who shot a 911 caller dead has been sentenced to almost five years in prison.
Mohamed Noor was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian yoga teacher who called the police in 2017 to report a possible rape near her home. When Noor arrived at the scene, he fatally shot her.
Judge Kathryn Quaintance sentenced Noor to four years and nine months in prison, the maximum possible sentence for the charge.
“Mr Noor, I am not surprised that you have been a model prisoner,” the judge said, according to the Associated Press. “However, I do not know any authority that would make that grounds for reducing your sentence.”
The former police officer, who was fired after he was charged, has already spent 29 months in prison. Judge Quaintance ruled that those months will be counted as time served.
Ms Damond, who was 40 when she died, was a yoga and meditation teacher living in Fulton, Minneapolis. She had moved there from Australia to be with her fiancé, Don Damond, and his 22-year-old son, Zach.
On the night of 15 July, 2017, Ms Damond called 911 to report what she feared were the sounds of a rape taking place behind her house. Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, drove a police car to the scene, but found no signs of a sexual assault.
As Noor and Mr Harrity got ready to leave, Ms Damond approached the car from the driver’s seat side. At the same time, Mr Harrity later testified, a loud noise of something hitting the car startled the officers. Noor, in the passenger seat, drew his gun and shot Ms Damond, who was unarmed, through the open car window. She died 20 minutes later.
Ms Damond had been planning to get married in Hawaii the following week. Instead, her family held her memorial service.
“We should be walking down the street smiling and laughing,” Ms Damond’s father, John Ruszczyk, said at the service. “But now every step on the footpath is very painful. I feel crushed by sorrow.”
Noor was convicted of both manslaughter and third-degree murder in 2019, and was sentenced to 12½ years in prison. But in September this year, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned that murder conviction, leaving only the manslaughter charge.
At the manslaughter sentencing, Ms Damond’s parents, Mr Ruszczyk and Maryan Heffernan, beseeched the judge to impose the longest possible sentence.
“Our sorrow is forever, our lives will always endure an emptiness,” they said.
Ms Damond’s former fiancé also demanded a lengthy sentence, and criticized the Supreme Court’s undoing of the murder conviction.
“The truth is Justine should be alive,” Mr Damond said. “No amount of justification, embellishment, cover-up, dishonesty or politics will ever change that truth.”
He also said, however, that he forgave the former police officer who killed his fiancé. Noor said he appreciated this.
“I’m deeply grateful for Mr Damond’s forgiveness,” the former police officer said. “I’m deeply sorry for the pain that I’ve caused that family, and I will take his advice and be a unifier.”