The heartbreaking fact that Justine Ruszczyk Damond should not have lost her life on July 15, 2017, was never in dispute during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.
Instead, jurors were asked to determine whether that tragedy was criminal — and they did. Noor was found guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the on-duty fatal shooting of Damond, who had called 911 for help when she heard a noise behind her south Minneapolis home. The jury acquitted Noor of second-degree murder.
For some, the verdict was not strong enough, considering that an innocent woman who called police for help died by their hand. For others, the murder conviction especially represents a double standard — perhaps race-based — in how officers are treated when they’re responsible for fatal shootings.
What is clear is that the case was vigorously prosecuted by Hennepin County attorneys, and that jurors found their arguments most persuasive. Prosecutors made the case that Noor acted unreasonably when he fired, and jumped too quickly to the conclusion that Ruszczyk was a threat.
The case once again highlighted the debate over police-involved shootings, as well as officer training and tactics — discussions that will and should continue. How can the innocent lives of citizens be better protected? How can officers who devote their lives to public safety not fall victim to gun violence themselves? And by what standards should cops be held accountable when their mistakes or misdeeds result in the deaths of innocent citizens?