Minneapolis police officer found guilty in shooting death of unarmed woman who called 911

Mohamed Noor took the stand in his own defense last week, telling jurors he believed Justine Damond was armed and was within point-blank range of his partner, Matthew Harrity.

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By David K. Li and Doha Madani

A former Minnesota police officer was found guilty of murder Tuesday for shooting an unarmed woman who had called 911 to report a possible rape behind her home.

The jury convicted Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the July 15, 2017, slaying of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual citizen of the United States and Australia.

The jury found him not guilty of the top charge of second-degree murder.

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor walks through the skyway with his attorney Thomas Plunkett, left, on the way to court in Minneapolis on Friday, April 26, 2019.Leila Navidi / Star Tribune via AP

Noor, who was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department after being charged, now faces up tp 15 years behind bars for third-degree murder.

He was handcuffed and taken into custody, over the objections of defense attorneys who wanted the former police officer to remain free on bond. Noor showed no visible emotion and didn't look back at supporters in the gallery, including his crying wife.

Noor, a Somali immigrant who'd been on the job for two years, is scheduled to be sentenced June 7.

His defense attorneys left the courthouse without commenting to reporters.

"This is a tragic shooting that did not have to happen and should not have happened," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said after the verdicts were read.

A man who served on the jury, which deliberated about 11 hours, told NBC affiliate KARE 11 that he felt bad for Noor, but that the jurors followed the law in convicting him.

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"I feel bad for the guy," he told the station. "I feel bad for his family. But we determined he committed a crime. And in the end, no one is above the law."

The police union called the death "extremely unfortunate" for all parties concerned.

"From the very onset this was an extremely unfortunate situation for all involved. The tragic loss of life; an officer convicted of murder charges while on duty," according to a statement by the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis.

"Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Our thoughts are with former Officer Noor. The Federation respects the legal process and the findings of the jury."

Noor took the stand in his own defense last week, telling jurors he believed Damond was armed and was within point-blank range of his partner, Matthew Harrity, when he fired his weapon.

The jury started deliberations Monday afternoon. The panel was sequestered as soon as deliberations began.

Noor and his partner drove into Damond's south Minneapolis neighborhood when, the driver Harrity testified, he thought he heard a thump on the hood of their car.

Noor testified he saw a woman — who turned out to be Damond — with her arms outside Harrity's window and then fired, believing he was saving his partner's life.

"He turned to me with fear in his eyes," Noor said of his partner. "His gun appeared caught in his holster."

Noor told jurors he saw a blonde woman at Harrity's driver's side window and believed she was raising an arm.

"I fired one shot and the threat was gone," Noor, a Somali-American immigrant, told jurors.

Justine DamondStephen Govel Photography

Both officers had body cameras but they were not turned on at the moment of the shooting.

Investigators found no forensic evidence that Damond had touched or slapped the squad car before she was shot.

No evidence of a sexual assault was ever found.

The tragic killing was an international incident as loved ones of Damond, 40, a life coach originally from Sydney — half a world away — demanded justice.

The woman's father, John Ruszczyk, has filed a $50 million federal lawsuit against Noor, Harrity, the city and police leaders, claiming a civil rights violation. That case is on hold until the criminal case is finished.

"We are satisfied with the outcome," Ruszczyk said after the verdicts. "The jury’s decision reflects the community’s commitment to three important pillars of a civil society: the rule of law, the respect for the sanctity of life, and the obligation of the police force to serve and protect."

Associated Press contributed.