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8 Jun, 2019 03:04

Minnesota cop sentenced to 12+ years for killing unarmed woman who called 911

Minnesota cop sentenced to 12+ years for killing unarmed woman who called 911

A former Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer convicted of shooting an unarmed woman in an alley behind her home was given a 12.5 year prison sentence, in a controversial case that had the ACLU crying racism.

Mohamed Noor, 33, was convicted in April of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond on the night of July 15, 2017. Damond had called to report a possible sexual assault taking place outside her home; Noor shot her as she approached his squad car.

“I felt fear,” Noor said at his sentencing Friday, but added “I knew in an instant that I was wrong” after he saw who he had shot.

Also on rt.com Minnesota police remove ‘disgusting’ memorial to woman shot by Somali cop

Noor’s lawyers pushed for a light penalty, arguing a prison sentence would only deepen the tragedy, but Judge Kathryn Quaintance handed down the sentence recommended under Minnesota guidelines. The maximum penalty for third-degree murder in the state is 25 years.

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

Convictions for officer-involved shootings are exceptionally rare, and prison terms are nearly unheard of. According to research conducted by criminologist Philip Stinson, between 900 and 1,000 such shootings take place each year, yet since 2005 only three police murder convictions have stuck. Noor is number four.

READ MORE: Months after she was shot by police, Justine Damond’s family is still waiting for justice

“None of these cases, cases involving police shootings, is ever easy or exactly the same,” Stinson told NBC News in March. “But today, an officer gets on the stand and says 'I feared for my life,' and that’s usually all she wrote. No conviction, more often than that, no charges at all.”

Fear, in Noor’s case, was apparently not a sufficient defense.

In the wake of the 2017 shooting, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced that officers in the city would be prohibited from participating in “fear-based” or “warrior-style” training courses, even if they were self-funded and off duty.

“When you’re conditioned to believe that every person encountered poses a threat to your existence, you simply cannot be expected to build meaningful relationships with those same people,” the mayor said in a statement in April.

Noor’s conviction in April prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to complain about the trial as racist, because a “Black, Muslim, and a Somali immigrant” Noor is the only police officer ever convicted of killing someone on duty in Minnesota.

The “blonde, blue eyed, white” Damond is the “ideal victim by which prosecutors could take advantage of racist tropes to secure a conviction of Noor,” ACLU’s Carl Takei and Paige Fernandez argued in a blog post.

A month before Noor shot Damond, a Minnesota jury acquitted Jeronimo Yanez, who had been an officer in nearby St. Anthony, in the 2016 killing of Philando Castile. Yanez told the jury he feared for his life and did not want to shoot Castile, but was “forced to” because the African-American motorist was “not complying with my directions.”  The fatal incident was streamed live on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend.

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