Mohamed Noor, a former Minneapolis Police Officer who shot and killed a woman calling 911 for help, was resentenced on Thursday to just under five years in prison for manslaughter. The resentencing reduced his original sentence by seven years, after the state reviewed the case and threw out his charge of murder.
Following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Mohamed Noor’s case was seen as a rare example of an officer receiving punishment for killing an unarmed woman.
The Minneapolis Supreme Court later overturned his charge of murder, however, arguing that he when he fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk, it was within the bounds of his duty. His original sentence stated that he had a “generalized indifference to human life” when he shot Ruszczyk, which the courts said was not true of the shooting in retrospect.
According to police records, Mohamed Noor arrived at the scene at night in 2017, after Justine Ruszczyk, 40, called police to report hearing a strange noise behind her home. She told authorities that it sounded like a woman being either sexually assaulted or raped.
When Noor arrived, Justine Ruszczyk walked outside in her pajamas to greet him. Under the cover of darkness, Noor, sitting in his police car, fired a single, fatal shot into her chest and accidentally killed her.
Late last month, after reviewing the initial sentence, the Minneapolis Supreme Court controversially lessened the charge, arguing that manslaughter was more appropriate than murder.
“We may very well agree that Noor’s decision to shoot a deadly weapon simply because he was startled was disproportionate and unreasonable,” the Minneapolis Supreme Court justices wrote in their updated opinion. “Noor’s conduct is especially troubling given the trust that citizens should be able to place in our peace officers. But the tragic circumstances of this case do not change the fact that Noor’s conduct was directed with particularity toward Ruszczyk.”
The move was seen as a setback for activists who were originally proud of their state justice system for convicting an officer of an unjust shooting, only to see the sentence lessened four years later.
“We have always maintained that this was a tragic case, and we are grateful for an exceptionally well-reasoned and unanimous opinion from this State’s highest court,” Mohamed Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, told the court after the resentencing.
Noor’s lawyers had originally asked for a sentence of three and a half years, citing his commitment to protecting Somali citizens in Minneapolis and helping build trust between minorities in the city and the police department.
At the hearing on Thursday when Mohamed Noor was read his updated sentence, Don Damond, Justine Ruszczyk’s fiancé, spoke his mind in the four years since her death.
“I have no doubt she would have forgiven you, Mohamed, for your inability to manage your own emotions that night, which resulted in you pulling that trigger,” Don Damond shockingly said. “Justine was and is still my greatest teacher. Given her example, I want you to know that I forgive you, Mohamed. All I ask is that you use this experience to do good for other people.”
According to The New York Times, Mohamed Noor stated that he was “Justine was and is still my greatest teacher. Given her example, I want you to know that I forgive you, Mohamed. All I ask is that you use this experience to do good for other people.”
Noor has already served two and a half years of his sentence, which was reduced to four years and nine months. He will now be released in 2024, instead of serving his original 12-year prison term.
Damond’s parents, John Ruszczyk and Maryan Heffernan, said that the shooting was “utterly gratuitous,” and that the Minneapolis Supreme Court did not waver their belief that Mohamed Noor murdered their daughter.
“Our sorrow is forever,” the couple told ABC News. “Our lives will always endure an emptiness.”