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This story comes to you from the Star Tribune, a partner with Sahan Journal. We will be sharing stories between Sahan Journal and Star Tribune.
Mohamed Noor, who fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond in Minneapolis in 2017 and became the first former Minnesota police officer convicted of an on-duty homicide, was released from prison Monday morning.
Noor, 36, left the North Dakota State Penitentiary in Bismarck about 8:30 a.m. and is now under court-ordered supervision until Jan. 24, 2024, when his sentence ends, according to DOC spokesman Nicholas Kimball.
Noor originally began serving his sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights but was transferred to the prison in North Dakota’s capital city in July 2019 for his own safety, authorities said.
By all accounts, Noor was a compliant prisoner wherever he was in custody.
“He had no disciplinary issues during the term of incarceration,” Kimball said.
Conditions of Noor’s release to Hennepin County Community Corrections are nearly identical to any inmate moving to supervised release, other than he must “refrain from employment in security-type jobs or jobs that are a position of authority over others without documented approval of his [parole officer],” Kimball said.
Other routine conditions Noor must follow while on supervised release include staying law-abiding, not possessing guns or ammunition and remaining in Minnesota unless granted approval to leave from his parole officer.
Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, declined to comment about this stage of his client’s sentencing, saying, “At this point, we are choosing to respect Mr. Noor’s privacy.”
Scott Wasserman, spokesman for Hennepin County corrections, said that those under the agency’s supervision “need to check in with their supervised release officer within 24 hours of their release. Within the first 90 days of release, a client must conduct a minimum of five in-person visits with their supervised release officer.”
In October 2021, Noor received a new sentence of nearly five years, and that set Monday as his release date, instead of several years later under a previous sentence vacated by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance imposed Noor’s ultimate prison sentence of four years and nine months for second-degree manslaughter after the high court overturned his third-degree murder conviction for killing Damond, 40, who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home in southwest Minneapolis.
The court’s decision vacated Noor’s initial sentence of 12 ½ years.
Damond’s father, John Ruszczyk, said Friday that his family was disappointed that Noor’s third-degree murder conviction was overturned in connection with the killing of his daughter, a dual U.S.-Australian citizen and yoga teacher who was engaged to be married.
“His release after a trivial sentence shows great disrespect to the wishes of the jury who represented the communities of Minneapolis and their wish to make a statement about the communities’ expectations of police behavior and actions,” Ruszczyk wrote in response to e-mailed questions from the Associated Press.
Damond’s stepmother, Maryan Heffernan, said in a phone interview that the timing of Noor’s release — so close to the fifth anniversary of Damond’s death on July 15 — is painful.
“We’re very disappointed. But we’re not surprised,” the Associated Press quoted her as saying. “We’ve been watching events in Minneapolis from miles away, and we’re still bewildered about the charge being dropped, and we’re still bewildered about the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department,” Heffernan said, adding that she believes Noor was the product of a “very dysfunctional department.”
In May 2019, the city agreed to pay Damond’s family $20 million to settle a lawsuit over her death.
Noor, who was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department after the shooting, was the second officer in modern Minnesota history to be charged with an on-duty fatal shooting. St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted in 2017 in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile during a 2016 traffic stop.
Defendants in Minnesota are entitled to be moved to supervised release after serving two-thirds of their prison sentences. Under his first sentence, Noor would have had to serve an additional five-plus years before becoming eligible for supervised release.
Jurors convicted Noor in April 2019 of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His attorneys appealed the murder count, which the state Court of Appeals upheld in February 2021. Noor’s attorneys then asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to review that decision.
The high court agreed with the attorneys that because of how the statute is written the murder count cannot apply when a defendant’s actions are directed at a specific person. Justices vacated Noor’s conviction and sentence and sent his case back to district court for resentencing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.