Dozens of community members wrote to a judge pleading with her for leniency when she sentences ex-Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor on Friday in the killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
The 44 letters accompanied a defense memorandum outlining the case for Noor to receive probation instead of prison time when he is sentenced on third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Damond on July 15, 2017.
“Mr. Noor has a long history of aiding youth and the community in general through volunteer activities,” his attorneys wrote. “… Mr. Noor is amenable to probation. He is a young person with no criminal history, has been cooperative, has displayed a good attitude while in court, has the support of friends, family, and the community, and is remorseful.”
Supporters included a Minneapolis police supervisor, a woman who was homeless and received help from Noor, a youth sports coach, the imam of a mosque, state Rep. Hodan Hassan and Noor’s younger sister and uncles.
“In our field of policing, it is easy to become jaded and negative but this career has not changed Noor’s perspective on the world,” wrote Metro Transit police officer Kadra Mohamed. “He has always asked me to look at things with a silver lining.”
Defense attorneys Thomas Plunkett and Peter Wold wrote that Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance could “fashion a sentence that has some hope of acknowledging the loss of Ms. Ruszczyk.”
They proposed requiring Noor to perform community service. In addition, they said, throughout probation he could turn himself in to the county workhouse for a week on the day of Damond’s birth and the day of her death.
“This sentence honors the memory of Ms. Ruszczyk and allows Mr. Noor to continue to serve the city,” they wrote.
Damond had not yet legally changed her last name, but was using the last name of her fiancé, Don Damond, professionally. She was killed one month before the two were to marry.
The letters of support included a page from Minneapolis police Lt. Dan May, who testified at Noor’s monthlong trial and who himself fatally shot a civilian decades ago.
“Mo was always professional, polite, and courteous to everyone he contacted on duty, and was genuinely concerned with helping those in need,” May wrote, using a nickname for Noor. “… Since the shooting of Justine Damond, I have been in constant communication with Mo, talking to him on the phone and meeting with him in person several times a month up until his trial commenced.”
May said they talked about Noor’s “anguish” but “never once spoke about the details of the shooting.”
Supporters said Noor, a Somali immigrant, was a “bridge” between the Somali community and others, volunteered in the community, served as a youth soccer coach and is a devoted father to his school-aged special-needs son.
“[Noor] has been a role model to many young people in the community,” wrote Hassan. “I know him to be someone that displays [a] high level of responsibility, ambition, integrity, and honesty.”
Other supporters include Hassan Jama, executive director of the Islamic Association of North America; Siad Ali, a board director with the Minneapolis Public Schools; and Shakil Malik, a lead deputy county attorney in Omaha.
If Quaintance will not grant the request for probation, the defense wrote, Noor should receive a sentence of one year and one day in custody — less time than recommended by state sentencing guidelines.
The maximum prison term for third-degree murder is 25 years; the maximum for second-degree manslaughter is 10 years. State sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of about 11 to 15 years for third-degree murder for defendants such as Noor, who have no criminal history.
Noor fatally shot Damond while he and his partner were responding to her 911 call about a possible sexual assault behind her south Minneapolis home.
Noor testified at trial that he and his partner, Matthew Harrity, had finished checking on Damond’s call and were parked at the end of her alley about 11:40 p.m. when a loud bang on their squad car startled them. Noor said he fired his weapon because he feared they were being ambushed.