MINNEAPOLIS — A Hennepin County judge on Thursday, Oct. 21, resentenced ex-Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor to nearly five years in prison for the 2017 killing of 911 caller Justine Ruszczyk, the maximum for second-degree manslaughter after the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned his third-degree murder conviction last month.

With time already served, Noor is expected to be free next summer. Second-degree manslaughter carries a much lower presumptive sentence than the 12 1/2 years he received for the shooting death of Ruszczyk.

The new sentence came after the court heard victim impact statements from Ruszczyk’s family members and arguments from prosecutors and Noor’s lawyers. In a statement read to the court, the family wrote “our sorrow is forever” and urged the judge to impose the stiffest possible penalty, saying the jury that convicted Noor believed the officer committed murder.

The 40-year-old Minneapolis woman called 911 to report she heard someone screaming and believed an assault was happening. When Ruszczyk appeared at the police vehicle’s window, Noor shot her.

“The truth is that Justine should be alive,” Don Damond, Ruszczyk’s fiance, told the court by video conference. “No amount of justification, embellishment, coverup, dishonesty or politics will ever change that truth.”

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Speaking to Noor, Damond added: “I have no doubt she would have forgiven you, Mohamed, for your inability to manage your emotions that night."

In asking for a 57-month sentence, prosecutor Amy Sweasy told the court this case is more serious than other manslaughter cases because Noor "wore the badge." Ruszczyk, she added, “did nothing to bring about the circumstances of her own death.”

In a brief statement to the court before the sentence, Noor apologized again for the pain he’d caused Ruszczyk’s family and said he was grateful for Damond’s statement of forgiveness. “I will take his advice and be a unifier.”

‘Model prisoner’

Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, had sought a sentence for Noor of 41 months, which — along with time served — could have lead faster to Noor’s supervised release.

On Thursday, he described Noor’s killing of Ruszczyk as a “horrible mistake, but not an act motivated by cruelty or distaste of human life.”

Plunkett argued in a brief filed with the court that Noor should be sentenced at the low end of the guidelines partly because of the “harsh conditions” he experienced while held in segregation at the Oak Park Heights prison and that he’s been a “model prisoner.” Noor has spent most of his time at a correctional facility out of state.

Judge Kathryn Quaintance, however, said a harsher sentence was justified because Noor endangered his partner, a bicyclist and other residents when he fired out the window of his squad, across the body of his partner who was driving, shooting Rusczcyk.

At Noor’s previous sentencing, he apologized to Ruszczyk’s family for taking her life. Her fiance, Damond, told the court in his victim impact statement that the day she was killed was the last time he felt “happiness, a sense of trust and that everything could be OK.” Ruszczyk’s father, John Ruszczyk, said he would never feel whole again and asked that Noor be given the maximum sentence.

Ruszczyk called 911 on July 15, 2017. Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity responded to the call, driving through the alley with their headlights off.

Harrity and Noor testified that they were about to leave the alley when they heard what sounded like a thump on the squad. Noor, who was in the passenger seat, testified that he saw a blonde woman in a pink shirt and feared for his and Harrity’s life. He fired once, hitting Ruszczyk in the abdomen. She died at the scene.

Neither officer activated body-worn cameras until after the shooting.

The video from Noor, Harrity and other officers show a chaotic scene as firefighters and paramedics tried to save Ruszczyk’s life. Officers repeatedly switched off body cameras, including the sergeant overseeing the crime scene while interacting with Noor in what she told the court was a “private conversation.”

Ruszczyk’s killing sparked protests in the Twin Cities and outrage in her native Australia. It also led to the resignation of police Chief Janeé Harteau. The family later reached a $20 million civil settlement with the city of Minneapolis in Ruszczyk’s killing.

Justine Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, from Sydney, is seen in this 2015 photo released by Stephen Govel Photography in New York on July 17. Courtesy photo / Stephen Govel Photography via Reuters
Justine Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, from Sydney, is seen in this 2015 photo released by Stephen Govel Photography in New York on July 17. Courtesy photo / Stephen Govel Photography via Reuters