Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was sentenced Friday by a Minnesota judge to 12½ years in prison for the fatal shooting of a woman while responding to her 911 call.
Noor, a 33-year-old Somali-American, was convicted April 20 on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Justine Ruszczyk, who had relocated from her native Australia to Minneapolis to live with her fiancé.
During the sentencing hearing, Ruszczyk’s fiancé, Don Damond, read a letter in which he described weeping in a dress shop when he saw her wedding dress a week after her death.
“I had an experience of what that magical wedding night in Hawaii would have been like,” he said. “I fantasized about seeing you walk on the beach in that dress toward me to exchange our vows. I fantasized kissing you as they designated us man and wife.
“But these are not memories but sad wishes of what will never be.”
Noor spoke in court to apologize to the family of Ruszczyk, saying he will think of her every day.
“I’ve thought and prayed about this for two years, since the time I took the life of Justine Ruszczyk,” Noor said before sentencing, according to CNN affiliate WCCO. “I’ve also been thinking about all the other lives that have been changed and continue to be changed after this event. None of the families will ever be the same again.”
Noor said he took pride in being a police officer, WCCO reported.
“Taking a life so tragically goes against all of that. I’ve lived with this and will continue to live with this. It is my burden. I wish I could relieve that burden others feel of the (loss) I’ve caused,” Noor said. “I will think of Miss Ruszczyk and her family forever.”
‘I felt fear’
The state asked for 150 months, while Noor’s attorneys requested a probationary sentence.
“Good people sometimes do bad things,” Judge Kathryn Quaintance said before announcing the sentence. She gave Noor credit for 41 days served and fined him $6,000.
Authorities said Ruszczyk called 911 the night of July 15, 2017, to report a possible sexual assault in an alley behind her house.
Officers Matthew Harrity and Noor were dispatched to the scene and arrived at 11:37 p.m., according to a criminal complaint. Prosecutors said Noor was sitting in the passenger seat, pulled out his gun and shot across the vehicle to hit Ruszczyk, who was outside the driver’s side door.
Noor testified during the trial that Harrity’s terrified expression and the sight of Ruszczyk with her hand raised jolted him into action. Although he did not see a gun in the woman’s hand, he feared his partner might be shot as she began to raise her hand, he said.
Speaking in court Friday, Noor said: “The moment I pulled the trigger, I felt fear. The moment I walked around and saw Miss Ruszczyk dying on the ground, I felt horror. I knew in that instant that I was wrong.”
‘We are not done fighting’
Noor’s attorney, Peter Wold, told the court that “there is no dispute that Noor reacted based on fear in the split seconds he reacted and shot Ms. Ruszczyk that night.”
But Hennepin County prosecutors argued that Noor overreacted and failed to assess the situation properly before firing.
He has appealed the conviction, WCCO reported.
“We are disappointed with the Court’s decision to send Mohammed Noor to prison for 150 months,” said Thomas Plunkett, another defense lawyer. “The tragedy surrounding this case has only deepened. We have concerns with the process that will need to be addressed. We are not done fighting for Mohamed Noor.”
Numerous letters in support of Noor were sent to the court. None of them were read aloud.
CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.