MINNEAPOLIS (AFP) - A former Minneapolis police officer was sentenced on Friday (June 7) to 12 years and six months in prison for the fatal shooting of an unarmed Australian woman who had been trying to report a crime.
Mohamed Noor, 33, was convicted in April of second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder in the 2017 death of Justine Damond, in a case that shocked the Midwestern city and sparked outrage in the victim's home country.
Noor was responding to her report of a possible sexual assault in an alley in Minneapolis.
At sentencing Noor told the judge of his horror over learning he had shot an innocent woman.
"That mistake is my hardship to bear," Noor told the judge, his voice breaking.
"The act may have been based on a miscalculation, but it was an intentional act," Hennepin County District Court Judge Kathryn Quaintance said.
During the trial Noor testified that he shot Damond, an Australian who had moved to the US, to protect his partner, because he had feared an ambush when responding to an emergency call she had made.
But prosecutors insisted the shooting was unreasonable and contrary to police department training policy.
Noor targeted Damond from the passenger seat of the police cruiser he was in with his partner, Matthew Harrity.
The 40-year-old victim, a yoga instructor, had approached the cruiser after calling 911 twice to report a possible rape in the dark alley behind her home. No such assault was ever found to have occurred.
Damond was wounded in the abdomen and died at the scene. Her last words were: "I'm dying," according to authorities.
Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, second-degree manslaughter carries a penalty of 120-180 months, with the presumptive sentence of 150 months.
The judge noted that third-degree murder calls for a 150-month sentence, but given it is a lesser offense, she did not impose a sentence for that crime.
In addition to his imprisonment, Noor is now banned from future use or possession of guns or explosives. He must pay a US$6,000 fine and restitution yet to be determined, and provide a DNA sample, the judge ordered.
Damond had moved to the Midwestern city to marry her American fiance Don Damond. She had changed her name from her maiden name, Ruszczyk.
Her parents had written letters to the judge requesting the maximum sentence.