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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed woman who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the driveway behind her home is set to be released from jail next week, months after his murder conviction was overturned and he was convicted on a lesser charge.
Mohamed Noor, 36, is set to be released on Monday, 18 days before the fifth anniversary of the July 15, 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old dual US-Australian citizen and yoga teacher who was engaged.
Noor was initially convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter, but last year the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned his murder conviction and 12½-year sentence, saying the charge of murder did not apply to the circumstances of this case. He was sentenced to four years and nine months for manslaughter.
In Minnesota, a well-behaved defendant is presumed to serve two-thirds of a sentence in prison and the remainder on supervised release, commonly referred to as parole. The DOC website says Noor will be on probation until January 24, 2024.
Damond’s father, John Ruszczyk, said Friday the family was disappointed that Noor’s third-degree murder conviction had been overturned.
“His release after a meaningless sentence shows a great disrespect for 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,” he said. writes Ruszczyk in response to questions sent by e-mail. Associated Press.
Damond’s mother-in-law, Maryan Heffernan, said in a telephone interview that the timing of Noor’s release – so close to the anniversary of Damond’s death – is painful.
“We are very disappointed. But we are not surprised. We watched the events in Minneapolis from miles away and we’re still baffled by the dropping of the charge and we’re still baffled by the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department,” Heffernan said, adding that she thought that Noor was the product of a “very dysfunctional department”.
After his conviction, Noor began serving his sentence at Minnesota’s maximum security prison in Oak Park Heights, but the Star Tribune reported that he was moved to a facility in North Dakota in July 2019 for his own safety. . Department of Corrections spokesman Nicholas Kimball said Noor was still out of state, but did not specify where.
“For security reasons, we are unable to provide more details than what is available on the public website, which is the expected release date,” Kimball said.
It was unclear if Noor would return to Minnesota. His lawyer, Tom Plunkett, declined to comment, saying “at this point I just want to respect Mr Noor’s privacy.”
Damond’s murder angered American and Australian citizens and led to the resignation of the Minneapolis police chief. It also led the department to change its policy on body cameras; Noor and his partner had not activated theirs when investigating Damond’s 911 call.
Noor testified at his trial in 2019 that he and his partner were driving slowly down an alley when a loud bang on their police SUV caused him to 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 firing a shot from the passenger seat to stop what he thought was a threat.
Damond was a meditation teacher and life coach who was killed about a month before his wedding. Her maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk, and although she was not yet married, she was already using her fiancé’s last name.
Her fiancé, Don Damond, declined to comment on Noor’s upcoming release, but said during Noor’s re-sentencing that he had forgiven the former officer and had no doubt Justine would have forgiven him as well.” for your inability to manage your emotions that night.”
Noor, who is of Somali descent, was reportedly the first Minnesota officer convicted of murder for an on-duty shooting. Activists who have long called for officers to be held accountable for the lethal use of force cheered the murder conviction.
Since Noor’s conviction, former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, has been convicted of murder in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, a black man who was pinned to the sidewalk below Chauvin’s knee. Chauvin’s colleague Thomas Lane has pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the manslaughter, while two other officers are awaiting trial for aiding and abetting both the murder and the manslaughter. All four were convicted on federal charges of violating Floyd’s rights.
In a separate case, former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter was found guilty of manslaughter after she said she mistook her Taser for her handgun when she fatally shot Daunte Wright, a motorist 20-year-old black man during a traffic stop last year.
John Ruszczyk said in his email to the AP that his family believes state investigators and the Minneapolis Police Department did not fully cooperate with the investigation into his daughter’s murder and that he was disturbed by the culture of the agency.
He said he believed the ministry agreed to use violence as a way to control difficult situations, which he says contributed to his death. He cited a recent report by the state Department of Human Rights that found the agency has engaged in a pattern of racial discrimination for at least a decade, including using force more often against people. of color. Federal authorities are also investigating whether the department engaged in a pattern of discrimination.
“How could officers take to the streets in the role of defenders of public safety and order with an attitude towards their duties and obligations that allows them to shoot first and ask questions afterwards?” he wrote.
Days after Noor’s sentencing, Minneapolis agreed to pay Damond’s family $20 million, considered at the time to be the largest settlement resulting from police brutality in Minnesota. It was topped last year when Minneapolis agreed to a $27 million settlement for Floyd’s death just as Chauvin was on trial.
Floyd’s killing has led to a consideration of police brutality and discrimination involving people of color. The department is facing calls for more accountability and the state is recommending several changes as it seeks a court-enforceable consent decree. City leaders continue to debate how to change the system.
She said that during her trial, the family was told that Damond’s death would lead to change, but when Floyd was killed, “we were absolutely devastated because nothing had changed. We felt that Justine’s death meant nothing… She is forgotten.
But Heffernan said Australians remember Damond and her family thinks of her every day. On the anniversary of her death, they quietly walk to her favorite beach and throw pink flowers – her favorite color – into the waves as the sun rises.
She also said that once a month during the summer, her family sends flowers to the site of Damond’s murder, as well as on his birthday and July 15, the day he died.
“She touched a lot of people’s hearts, which I find pretty amazing,” Heffernan said.
This story has been updated to correct Noor’s sentence on the manslaughter count to four years and nine months, not 41 months.
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