Mohamed Noor, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted of third-degree murder Tuesday in the shooting death of an unarmed Australian woman outside her home in 2017.
Justine Damond had called 911 twice shortly before midnight in July 2017 to report a possible sexual assault outside her house. Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, responded to the call in their squad car, and Noor testified that he heard a loud bang on the vehicle before seeing a woman raise her arm near a rolled-down window on the squad car. The officer fired his gun, hitting Damond, saying he did so to protect his partner. He was later fired.
Noor faces up to 15 years in prison for the murder charge and an additional five years for a separate manslaughter conviction, The Associated Press reported. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 7.
John Ruszczyk, Damond’s father, said his family was satisfied with the ruling. But he said during a news briefing on Tuesday that he hoped the conviction would be a “catalyst” for change among law enforcement, criticizing the handling of the case by the Minneapolis Police Department
“We believe the conviction was reached despite the active resistance of a number of Minneapolis police officers, including the head of the union, and either active resistance or gross incompetence,” he said.
The incident sparked widespread public outrage, both in America and Australia, and drew renewed concern over the use of deadly force by law enforcement. Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau was forced out shortly after Damond’s death, and the mayor lost her reelection bid.
The shooting also led the city’s police department to revamp its body camera policy, according to The New York Times, as both Noor and Harrity were wearing the devices during the incident but hadn’t turned them on.
“I fired one shot,” Noor said at the trial, The Guardian reported. “My intent was to stop the threat and save my partner’s life.”
The conviction in Damond’s case is relatively rare. Officers involved in fatal shootings are often acquitted by juries because of the wide leeway when it comes to law enforcement officers’ legal use of force, although the Times noted that some several officers have been handed similar convictions in the past year.
The case also drew some concerns about how fairly Noor would be treated. He is Somali-American, and Damond was a white woman.
Prosecutors argued, however, that Noor acted “recklessly,” firing at an unknown figure without issuing a warning.
“Justine was approaching the car unarmed,” Mike Freeman, the county prosecutor on the case, said when charges were filed. “They couldn’t even tell whether it was a male or a female, an adult or a child.”
Because there were no witnesses or footage of the incident, the accounts presented in the case were solely those of Noor and Harrity.