Former police officer Noor found guilty in death of Ruszczyk Damond

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Hennepin County Jury returned two guilty verdicts Tuesday against former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor in the July 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

The jury, which deliberated over parts of two days, found Noor guilty of one count of third-degree murder and one count of second-degree manslaughter. He was found not guilty of second-degree murder.

Noor was immediately taken into custody. His sentencing was set for June 7. The presumptive sentence under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines for the third-degree murder charge is 150 months in prison. The two sides will argue the sentence and Hennepin County District Court Judge Katherine Quaintance will make the final decision.

“We believe the jury carefully reviewed the extensive evidence and made the correct decision,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said at a news conference after the verdict. “This was a challenging case with limited video evidence and only two witnesses of the actual shooting. We worked very hard to collect all the evidence, interview all known witnesses, conduct every relevant test and hire superb experts.”

The verdict came in the beginning of the fifth week of the trial. The prosecutors called more than 50 witnesses to testify about what happened late the night of July 15, 2017 when Ruszczyk Damond called Minneapolis police to report that a woman was screaming from behind a building near her south Minneapolis home.

In her closing argument, Senior Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy argued that Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, knew a woman called 911 twice, knew that the call was of a woman screaming, “so in no event, should a woman in an alley have surprised them.” She argued a police officer may only use deadly force when the officer or someone else is facing death or great bodily harm. The unarmed Ruszczyk Damond, clad in her pajamas, did not pose that danger.

The defense argued that Noor was acting as a reasonable officer and following his training. He saw Harrity scared by something outside the window, saw his partner struggling to get his gun out of his holster, so he fired at the woman, who he could see was raising her right arm, in order to protect his partner.

During the news conference, Freeman was asked about complaints by some in Minneapolis that he worked harder and was willing to charge a black officer who killed a white woman but would not do the same for a black person shot by a white cop.

“That is simply not true,” Freeman said. “Race has never been a factor in making any decision and never will be. We have charged white cops with crimes and we will again.”

Click here to watch video of press conference with Mike Freeman, Justine's father John Ruszczyk and Justine's fiancé Don Damond.