Mohamed Noor’s arrival as the first Somali-American officer in his Minneapolis police precinct was celebrated three years ago as a cultural bridge, a way of building trust between the police and the city’s large refugee population. The mayor even attended a welcome ceremony for him.
But on Friday, Mr. Noor, now an ex-officer and convicted murderer, was sentenced to about 12 and a half years in a Minnesota prison for the death of Justine Ruszczyk, an unarmed woman he killed while on patrol in 2017.
Far from building trust in the system, Mr. Noor’s case came to be seen by Somali-Americans as a sign of a double standard. Dozens gathered in the courthouse lobby Friday to voice displeasure with the length of Mr. Noor’s sentence, stating that they believed a white officer would have been treated differently. “Wrong Complexion For Blue Protection,” one man’s sign read.
“This case is about a black Muslim immigrant,” said Ahmednur Abdirahman, 36, who was among the protesters. “They are worried about disappointing the white community. For that reason, justice was not served today.”
Though it is rare for a police officer to be charged in a fatal on-duty shooting — Mr. Noor was the first Minnesota officer in decades convicted in such a case — the death of Ms. Ruszczyk defied easy explanation.
She was unarmed, wearing pajamas and holding nothing but a glittery cellphone. The case made international headlines, sparked protests and led to the ouster of the Minneapolis police chief. The city settled a lawsuit with her family for $20 million, among the largest ever for a police shooting in the United States.
“This was an obscene act by an agent of the state,” her father, John Ruszczyk, said, in a statement that was read aloud in court. “The killer should be held accountable. That sort of behavior is intolerable.”
Ms. Ruszczyk, who was white and had spent most of her life in Australia, called 911 twice on a summer night asking for help. When she encountered Mr. Noor in the alley behind her house, the officer fired a single, fatal shot out his cruiser’s window.
The sentence for Mr. Noor far surpassed the term of probation Mr. Noor’s lawyers sought, but it fell within state guidelines for his crimes. He was convicted by a jury in April of third-degree murder, which carried a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, and second-degree manslaughter, which could have led to as many as 10 years in prison.
“This case has caused damage so vast and so far-flung,” said Amy Sweasy, a prosecutor.
In the courthouse lobby, where several Somali-Americans waited to hear the judge’s decision, many saw the prison term as far too harsh. Some of them noted that white police officers in Minnesota and elsewhere had killed unarmed people and gone unpunished.
“It was fear, and it was quick, and you know, it was tragedy,” said Ifrah Mubarak, who was at the courthouse and said she was a friend of the Noor family. She said she believed Mr. Noor’s race and religion influenced his treatment by the court system.
Source: New York Times