'I was wrong': Officer who shot 911 caller gets 12½ years

  • Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor reads a statement Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Noor, convicted of shooting an unarmed woman to death as she walked toward his cruiser says he can't apologize enough "for taking the life of a perfect person. He sentenced Friday to 121/2 years in prison for the shooting. (Leila Navidi//Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

    Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor reads a statement Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Noor, convicted of shooting an unarmed woman to death as she walked toward his cruiser says he can't apologize enough "for taking the life of a perfect person. He sentenced Friday to 121/2 years in prison for the shooting. (Leila Navidi//Star Tribune via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • FILE - In this July 23, 2018, file photo, a poster of Justine Ruszczyk Damond is displayed at a news conference by attorneys for her family in Minneapolis. Attorneys for Mohamed Noor, a Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder in the shooting of Damond, an unarmed woman who had called 911, are asking a judge to give him a creative sentence rather than send him to prison. Noor's lawyers said in papers filed ahead of his Friday, June, 7, 2019, sentencing hearing that he should instead be required to report to county detention on Damond's birthday and the anniversary of her death.

    FILE - In this July 23, 2018, file photo, a poster of Justine Ruszczyk Damond is displayed at a news conference by attorneys for her family in Minneapolis. Attorneys for Mohamed Noor, a Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder in the shooting of Damond, an unarmed woman who had called 911, are asking a judge to give him a creative sentence rather than send him to prison. Noor's lawyers said in papers filed ahead of his Friday, June, 7, 2019, sentencing hearing that he should instead be required to report to county detention on Damond's birthday and the anniversary of her death. Associated Press

  • Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor listens to victim impact statements during his sentencing hearing with his lawyers Peter Wold, left, and Thomas Plunkett at the Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

    Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor listens to victim impact statements during his sentencing hearing with his lawyers Peter Wold, left, and Thomas Plunkett at the Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Muna Abdi of Minneapolis stands outside the courtroom during the sentencing of Mohamed Noor on Friday, June 7, 2019 in Minneapolis. A jury convicted Noor in April of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the July 2017 death of Damond, a 40-year-old dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia.  Noor shot Damond when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home. Abdi said Noor was treated differently because he is a black Muslim and she wanted to stand in solidarity with him.

    Muna Abdi of Minneapolis stands outside the courtroom during the sentencing of Mohamed Noor on Friday, June 7, 2019 in Minneapolis. A jury convicted Noor in April of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the July 2017 death of Damond, a 40-year-old dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia. Noor shot Damond when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home. Abdi said Noor was treated differently because he is a black Muslim and she wanted to stand in solidarity with him. Associated Press

  • Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor listens as he is sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance at Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

    Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor listens as he is sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance at Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Amal Abdullahi, 11, attends s rally supporting former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in Minneapolis on Thursday, June 6, 2019. Noor, convicted of murder in the shooting of an unarmed woman who had called 911, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP)

    Amal Abdullahi, 11, attends s rally supporting former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in Minneapolis on Thursday, June 6, 2019. Noor, convicted of murder in the shooting of an unarmed woman who had called 911, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP) Associated Press

  • Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor walks to the podium to be sentenced at Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

    Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor walks to the podium to be sentenced at Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor reads a statement at Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP)

    Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor reads a statement at Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP) Associated Press

  • Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, standing with his lawyers Thomas Plunkett, closest to camera, and Peter Wold, behind Noor, is sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance at the Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

    Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, standing with his lawyers Thomas Plunkett, closest to camera, and Peter Wold, behind Noor, is sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance at the Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor enters the courtroom for his sentencing hearing at Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

    Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor enters the courtroom for his sentencing hearing at Hennepin County District Court Friday, June 7, 2019, in Minneapolis, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Zach Damond, the son of Justine Ruszczyk Damond's fiance Don Damond, gets emotional while reading his victim impact statement, at the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis Friday, June 7, 2019, before the sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

    Zach Damond, the son of Justine Ruszczyk Damond's fiance Don Damond, gets emotional while reading his victim impact statement, at the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis Friday, June 7, 2019, before the sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Don Damond, the fiance of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, reads a victim impact statement before the sentencing at the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis Friday, June 7, 2019, before the sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

    Don Damond, the fiance of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, reads a victim impact statement before the sentencing at the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis Friday, June 7, 2019, before the sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Don Damond, the fiance of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, reads a victim impact statement before the sentencing at the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis Friday, June 7, 2019, before the sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

    Don Damond, the fiance of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, reads a victim impact statement before the sentencing at the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis Friday, June 7, 2019, before the sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Judge Kathryn Quaintance listens as former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor reads a statement before sentencing Friday, June 7, 2019,  in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis  in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

    Judge Kathryn Quaintance listens as former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor reads a statement before sentencing Friday, June 7, 2019, in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor reads a statement in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis Friday, June 7, 2019, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.  (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)

    Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor reads a statement in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis Friday, June 7, 2019, before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool) Associated Press

 
 
Updated 6/7/2019 7:33 PM

MINNEAPOLIS -- 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 12½ 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?"

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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."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Noor's attorneys had argued for a sentence as light as probation, but Judge Kathryn Quaintance swept that aside for a term identical to state sentencing guidelines.

"The act may have been based on a miscalculation, but it was an intentional act," Quaintance said. "Good people sometimes do bad things."

It's rare for police officers to be charged for on-duty shootings, let alone convicted. Philip Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, who has tracked the arrests from on-duty police shootings from 2005-2019, said only three other officers have been convicted of murder in that period, with an average sentence almost identical to Noor's.

Nineteen other officers convicted of manslaughter in that period had an average sentence of six years and two months, he said.

Noor is the only Minnesota officer to be convicted in an on-duty shooting in recent history.

Tom Plunkett, Noor's attorney, had asked Quaintance for a sentence as lenient as probation. He described Noor's desire to become a police officer in part to repay a debt he felt to the country that took him in long ago as a refugee.

"I have never stood up at sentencing with anyone my entire career that's done more or worked harder to be a good person, to earn the gifts he's been given," Plunkett said. "That's who Mohamed Noor is."

But prosecutor Amy Sweasy called for the recommended 12½ years. She noted that Damond had called 911 seeking help.

"And it was the defendant's responsibility when he encountered her in that alley to investigate and appreciate and discern that before he pulled the trigger," she said. "That was his responsibility, and his failure to do that is what resulted in the criminal act."

Justine's father, John Ruszczyk, in a statement read in court, asked for the maximum sentence and called her killing "an obscene act by an agent of the state."

Don Damond, Justine Damond's fiance, said in court Friday that every time he sees the alley where she walked barefoot and in her pajamas toward the police car he relives the moment.

"In my mind I beg you to turn around," he said, speaking of a "lost future" of decades filled with "love, family, joy and laughter." He said Justine was his soul mate with "a Muppetlike way of being in the world."

Noor sat quietly at the defense table with hands clasped, eyes usually closed and showing no emotion as victim impact statements were read.

Noor was returned after his sentencing to the state's maximum security prison in Oak Park Heights, where he has been held since his conviction in a secure unit for his safety. Under Minnesota law, he would serve two-thirds of his sentence in prison, assuming good behavior, and the remaining third on supervised release.

His lawyers said they were disappointed in the sentence and hinted that they plan to appeal, which they have 90 days to do.

___

Associated Press writers Amy Forliti, Doug Glass and Scott Bauer contributed to this story.

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