The former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old unarmed woman who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home, was released.
Mohamed Noor, 36, was scheduled to be released from custody on June 27 — several months after his murder conviction was overturned and he was resentenced on a lesser charge, and just 18 days from the five-year anniversary of Damond’s death.
Noor was initially convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in 2019, but the Minneapolis Supreme Court reversed his conviction and 12 ½-year sentence last September, claiming the murder charge didn’t apply to the circumstances of this specific case. Noor was resentenced to four years and nine months on the manslaughter charge. According to the Department of Correction’s website, Noor will be on parole until Jan. 24, 2024.
“His release after a trivial sentence shows great disrespect to the wishes of the jury who represented the communities of Minneapolis and their wish to make a statement about the communities’ expectations of police behavior and actions,” John Ruszczyk, Damond’s father, told The Associated Press. His family believes state investigators and the Minneapolis Police Department did not fully cooperate with the investigation into his daughter’s killing, and he was “disturbed by the agency’s culture.”
According to AP News, Damond’s family was disappointed that Noor’s murder conviction was overturned, and the timing of his release — so close to the anniversary of Damond’s death — is painful for them.
“We’re very disappointed. But we’re not surprised,” Damond’s stepmother, Maryan Heffernan, said to AP News. “We’ve been watching events in Minneapolis from miles away and we’re still bewildered about the charge being dropped and we’re still bewildered about the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department.”
The killing of Damond, who was a dual U.S.-Australian citizen, sparked outrage in the U.S. and Australia. The fatal shooting of Damond led to the resignation of Minneapolis’ police chief, and led the police department to change its policy on body cameras, because Noor and his partner didn’t have theirs activated when they were investigating Damond’s 911 call in 2017.
Noor, who is Somali-American, was believed to be the first Minnesota police officer convicted of murder for an on-duty shooting, according to CBS News. Since Noor’s conviction, at least two other Minnesota police officers have been convicted: former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, and former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter, who was convicted of manslaughter after she supposedly mistook her taser for her handgun when she fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last year.
Days after Noor’s conviction, the city of Minneapolis agreed to pay $20 million to Damond’s family. According to AP News, Heffernan said the family was told that Damond’s death would lead to change, but when George Floyd was killed, “we were absolutely shattered because nothing had changed. We felt that Justine’s death meant nothing … She is forgotten.”
Justine Ruszczyk Damond was a yoga teacher and life coach who was killed a month before her wedding. Though she wasn’t married yet, she had already been using her fiance’s last name.
Once a month during the summer, her family sends flowers to the site of Damond’s killing, as well as on her birthday and on July 15 — the day of her death. Heffernan told AP News: “She touched a lot of people’s hearts, which I think is quite amazing.”