Mohamed Noor, who was convicted in April over death of Australian life coach, apologised in court for taking the life of a perfect person
A former Minneapolis police officer convicted of killing the Australian life coach Justine Damond apologized to her family for taking the life of a perfect person, just before a judge rejected defense requests for a light sentence and ordered him to prison for 12 and a half years.
Mohamed Noor was convicted in April of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the July 2017 shooting of Damond, who approached his squad car in the alley behind her home after calling 911 to report a possible rape.
Noors lawyers had argued for a light sentence, saying sending him to prison would only compound the tragedy, and that incarceration would not let him do service to make amends for killing Damond.
But Judge Kathryn Quaintance sentenced the 33-year-old to a sentence identical to the recommendation under state guidelines.
An emotional Noor, his voice breaking as he spoke about the shooting for the first time, said he could not apologize enough.
I have lived with this and I will continue to live with this, Noor said. I caused this tragedy and it is my burden. I wish though that I could relieve that burden others feel from the loss that I caused. I cannot, and that is a troubling reality for me.
Noor said from the moment he pulled the trigger he felt fear and when he saw her body on the ground he was horrified.
Seeing her there, I knew in an instant I was wrong, Noor said. The depth of my error has only increased from that moment on. Working to save her life and watching her slip away is a feeling I cant explain. It leaves me sad, it leaves me numb, and feeling incredibly lonely. But none of that, none of those words capture what it truly feels like.
Noors attorneys argued in a court filing before Fridays sentencing that nobody would benefit from a long sentence, and that being in prison would keep Noor from making amends for killing Damond by doing good works in the community. They submitted letters of support that they said showed that Noor is a kind and peaceful man who has tried to be a bridge between Somali Americans in Minnesota and the larger community.
Noors attorney, Tom Plunkett, made the case for a lenient sentence, calling on the judge to consider what would be best for the community.
I have never stood up at sentencing with anyone my entire career thats done more or worked harder to be a good person, to earn the gifts hes been given, Plunkett said. Thats who Mohamed Noor is.
But prosecutor Amy Sweasy called for the 12.5-year sentence recommended under state guidelines.
The law is not concerned necessarily with whats good for the community, Sweasy said. The court must give a sentence proportional in severity to the crime committed.
Damond, a 40-year-old dual citizen of the US and Australia, was engaged to be married a month after the shooting.
Don Damond, Justines fiance, said in court on Friday that every time he sees the alley where she walked barefoot and in her pyjamas toward the police car he relives the moment.
In my mind I beg you to turn around, he said, speaking of a lost future of decades filled with love, family, joy and laughter. He said Justine was his soul mate and he misses her every day, every moment.
We both lived with our hearts open, caring for others, an emotional Don Damond said.
Noor testified during his trial that a loud bang on the squad car scared him and his partner, and that he saw a woman at his partners window raising her arm. He said he fired to protect his partners life. But prosecutors criticized Noor for shooting without seeing a weapon or Damonds hands, and disputed whether either of them really heard a bang.
Justines father John Ruszczyk, in a statement read in court, asked for the maximum sentence and called her killing an obscene act by an agent of the state.
Justines death has left me incomplete. It is as if I have lost a limb or a leg, he said in the statement. I have lost my daughter, I have lost those private conversations over tea.
Noor sat quietly at the defense table with hands clasped, staring straight ahead and showing no emotion as victim impact statements were read.
Damonds death sparked bewilderment and outrage in the US and Australia. The case was also fraught with race. Damond was white, and Noor is Somali American, leading some to question whether the case would have been handled the same if the victim had been black and the officer white.
While the city agreed to a $20m settlement with Damonds family soon after Noors conviction, it has yet to settle with the family of Jamar Clark, a black man shot by police in 2015, though in that case police said Clark was struggling for an officers gun.