Black Minneapolis Police Officer Convicted of Murder in 2017 Shooting Death of Australian Woman

Mohamed Noor, right, arriving for a court appearance in Minneapolis last week.
Credit: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune, via Associated Press

Jurors in Minneapolis convicted a former police officer of murder on Tuesday in the 2017 shooting death of an unarmed woman, The Associated Press reported. Rarely do police shootings result in such convictions.

The shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, 40, set off outrage as far away as Australia, where Ms. Ruszczyk had lived for most of her life, and forced changes in the policies and leadership of the Minneapolis Police Department. The trial drew intense attention among Minnesota’s Somali-American residents, many of whom wondered whether the former officer involved, Mohamed Noor, who was born in Somalia, would be treated fairly.

From the start, the case had been a mystery. Mr. Noor, who was later fired by the Police Department, declined to speak with investigators about why he opened fire a few minutes before midnight on July 15, 2017. At trial, Mr. Noor, speaking publicly about the shooting for the first time, said he feared for his life when he saw Ms. Ruszczyk approaching his cruiser and made a split-second decision to shoot.

“I fired one shot,” Mr. Noor said in court, according to The Star Tribune newspaper. “The threat was gone. She could have had a weapon.”

Prosecutors said Mr. Noor, 33, acted unreasonably — firing at a shadowy figure without a verbal warning — and that he should be convicted of murder.

“Justine was approaching the car unarmed. They couldn’t even tell whether it was a male or a female, an adult or a child,” said Mike Freeman, Hennepin County’s elected prosecutor, when charges were filed last year. “What is the threat that requires the use of deadly force? What was the serious crime that was going on?”

Ms. Ruszczyk had called 911 twice that night to report what she thought was a sexual assault in the alley behind her home. Peter Wold, a lawyer for Mr. Noor, acknowledged that Ms. Ruszczyk, who was about to get married and sometimes used her fiancé’s surname, Damond, had in fact posed no threat. She had been holding a glittery cellphone and standing outside a rolled-down window of the squad car when she was shot.

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SOURCE: New York Times, Mitch Smith

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