MINNEAPOLIS - A former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty on Tuesday of murder for fatally shooting Australian woman from his patrol car while responding to her 2017 report of a possible sex assault near her home.
Mohamed Noor, 33, was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for killing 40-year-old Justine Ruszczyk Damond outside her home near Minneapolis, in an incident that drew international criticism including from Australia's prime minister, who called the incident "shocking."
He was acquitted of second-degree intentional murder.
Noor sat silently through the entire reading of the verdict with his hands cupped, breathing heavily. The packed courtroom remained silent.
Noor was handcuffed and taken into custody after the verdict was read.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he expected Noor to face 12-1/2 years in prison for the murder charge and four years for the manslaughter charge when he is sentenced on June 7.
"This was a tragic shooting that did not have to happen and should not have happened," Freeman said. "It does not give us pleasure to call out police wrongdoing."
Freeman said it marks the first time a police officer in Minnesota was convicted of murder.
A wave of killings of black men and teens by U.S. police prompted street protests with this case providing a mirror image since Damond was white and Noor is a black Somali immigrant.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo apologized to Damond's friends and family in a statement released after the verdict was read.
"This was indeed a sad and tragic incident that has affected family, friends, neighbors, the City of Minneapolis and people around the world, most significantly in her home country of Australia," Arradondo said.
Noor and his partner drove to Damond's home the night of July 15, 2017 to respond to her report of a possible sexual assault outside her house, and when Damond approached the patrol car, Noor fired a shot across his partner through the passenger-side window to kill her.
The shooting led to the resignation of Minneapolis' police chief and the creation of stricter police body camera policies, after Noor and his partner failed to turn on their body cameras and provide video evidence to investigators.
Noor testified in Hennepin County District Court on April 26 that he shot Damond in an act of self-defense after he and his partner Matthew Harrity, who was driving, heard a loud noise.
Harrity had trouble removing his gun from its holster and, Noor said, "he turned to me with fear in his eyes."
Prosecutors called Noor's shooting of Damond, who was unarmed, "reckless" and the prime minister of Australia at the time, Malcolm Turnbull, said it was "inexplicable."
Damond was engaged to be married that summer and owned a life-coaching company, according to her personal website.
"That night there was a tragic lapse of care and complete disregard for the sanctity of life," her fiance Don Damond said after the verdict was read.
Damond's father John Ruszczyk said the decision reflected the community's commitment to the rule of the law, sanctity of life and the obligation of the police to serve and protect.
The verdict "strengthens those pillars," he said.