A Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman after she called 911 to report a possible rape happening behind her home was sentenced Thursday to nearly five years in prison — the maximum allowed for manslaughter after his murder conviction was overturned.
Mohamed Noor was initially convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old dual US-Australian citizen and yoga teacher who was engaged to be married.
But the Minnesota Supreme Court tossed out Noor's murder conviction and 12 1/2-year sentence last month, saying the third-degree murder statute didn't fit the case because it can only apply when a defendant shows a "generalised indifference to human life," not when the conduct is directed at a particular person, as it was with Damond.
Judge Kathryn Quaintance, who also presided at Noor's trial, granted prosecutors' request to impose the maximum sentence called for by state sentencing guidelines on Noor's manslaughter conviction, 57 months. In doing so, she brushed aside the defence's request for 41 months, which is the low end of the range. With good behaviour, Noor could be freed on supervised release by next summer.
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"Mr. Noor, I am not surprised that you have been a model prisoner," Quaintance said. "However, I do not know any authority that would make that grounds for reducing your sentence." She cited Noor "shooting across the nose of your partner" and endangering others the night of the shooting to hand down the stiffest sentence she could.
Noor, who was fired after he was charged, has already served more than 29 months. In Minnesota, inmates who behave well typically serve two-thirds of their prison sentences and the remainder on supervised release.
Noor testified at his 2019 trial that he and his partner were driving slowly in an alley when a loud bang on their police SUV made him fear for their lives. He said he saw a woman appear at the partner's driver's side window and raise her right arm before he fired a shot from the passenger seat to stop what he thought was a threat.
He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years on the murder count and had been serving most of his time at an out-of-state facility.