MINNEAPOLIS (KTLA) -- A former Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed an unarmed woman who had called 911 said Friday he “knew in an instant that I was wrong” and apologized to her family, just moments before a judge brushed off a defense request for leniency and ordered him to prison for 12.5 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 white, 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.
Some people in Minneapolis' large Somali community and the larger black community argued the case was handled differently from police shootings across the country in which the victims were black and the officers were white. And Noor's conviction came after Jeronimo Yanez, a Latino officer, was cleared of manslaughter in the 2016 death of black motorist Philando Castile in a nearby suburb.
Ahmed Nur carried a sign at the courthouse that had the words “Black, Muslim, Immigrant and Guilty” with boxes checked next to each word. He said he doubted a white officer would have been treated the same in Noor's situation.
“There will be many cases after this where a white officer kills a black kid. It will happen,” Nur said. “Then what are you gonna do? Because now we set a precedent saying if you kill someone, you will be prosecuted. You will go to jail. Are you going to do the same things for those cops?”
Friday's 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.”
“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.”