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Former Minneapolis Police Officer Found Guilty Of Murder For Shooting Unarmed Woman

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A jury has found former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Noor was charged in the shooting death of a woman who called 911 to report a crime near her house. Minnesota Public Radio's Jon Collins was in court, and he joins us now to talk about the case. Hi, Jon.

JON COLLINS, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: Can you just first remind us what happened back in 2017 when the woman, Justine Ruszczyk Damond, was killed?

COLLINS: So Justine Ruszczyk had called 911 because she thought she heard a woman being assaulted in the alley behind her home. Two officers responded to the call. One of them was Officer Mohamed Noor. He was riding in the passenger seat. Their squad car got to the end of the alley. They turned their lights off and went through the alley, didn't hear any noises of anyone being assaulted. They were about to leave when apparently Justine Ruszczyk Damond came up on the squad car. The officers said there was some sort of noise that happened, and Officer Noor shot Justine Ruszczyk, and she died at the scene.

CHANG: And how did people in Minnesota, in Minneapolis and in Australia - how did they react to the killing at the time?

COLLINS: You know, this was at a time when there was a lot of tension around police use of force and police killings in Minneapolis. There had been recently - right before this, the officer who shot and killed a motorist named Philando Castile had been found not guilty of charges of killing him. So this was just weeks before Justine Ruszczyk was killed, so there was a lot of tension there.

CHANG: Now, the former officer, Mohamed Noor - he testified in his own defense. What did he say?

COLLINS: He did. So Mohamed Noor talked a lot about how he was afraid of the noise. He was startled. He was in fear for his life because he saw his partner's reaction, he said after they testified, that there was a thump on the car. And he said he saw that his partner reached for the holster and was trying to get his gun out. And he said he saw fear in his eyes. And so he looked out the window, saw a woman with blond hair and a pink shirt and fired at what he said was a threat.

CHANG: And what kind of reaction to the verdict have you heard today so far?

COLLINS: You know, the - lots of people are reacting to this. Justine Ruszczyk's family spoke for the first time in quite a while. So her father, John Ruszczyk, described the pain that they've been going through ever since she was shot and killed. They said they believe that the family - the family believes that the charges were appropriate, and they're satisfied with the result. And they hope that it kind of lends itself to reform within police departments.

We also have local officials responding. Mayor Jacob Frey says it's a reminder of the trust that needs to be rebuilt between the police department and the city. And Chief Arradondo - Chief Medaria Arradondo of Minneapolis said he respects the verdict and that he will ensure that the MPD is going to learn from this experience because how the MPD behaved in the hours and days after the trial was a - excuse me - after her death was a main theme at the trial.

CHANG: Minnesota Public Radio's Jon Collins, thank you very much.

COLLINS: Thank you. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.