A Black Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of third-degree murder in the fatal shooting of an unarmed white woman, making him the first cop ever to be convicted of murder in the state.
On Tuesday, 33-year-old Mohamed Noor was convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting unarmed Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who approached his police car just minutes after calling 911 to report a possible rape. This makes history for the state and is a rare case for police who claimed he faced a life-or-death situation to receive a guilty verdict. Ruszczyk, 40, was a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia and was killed on July 15, 2017.
According to CNN, Noor testified that on the night of the shooting he feared for his life when Ruszczyk approached their squad car in the dark and empty alley. However, Hennepin County prosecutors said Noor overreacted and failed to properly assess the situation before firing a gunshot into Ruszczyk’s abdomen. In a statement, the woman’s family said they were pleased with the verdict. Ruszczyk’s fiancé hopes that his wife’s death would prompt the MPD to reform its procedures and policies, saying MPD squad cars use the motto, “To protect with courage, to serve with compassion.”
“Where were those values that night?” he asked. “She called them because she needed them to protect with courage and serve with compassion,” he said. “But that night, there was a tragic lack of care and compassion for the sanctity of life.” The shooting highlighted the police department and the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s mishandling of the investigation, which ended with the resignation of the Minneapolis’ police chief and a change in the department’s body camera policy.
However, this verdict also highlighted the major difference in how this case played out versus the killing of Black man #PhilandoCastile, who was shot by a Latino police officer just one year earlier. Both officers claimed they feared for their lives, but the victims’ races seem to change the result of the verdicts. Castile’s murderer got off while Ruszczyk’s killer was convicted.