Conviction of Minneapolis officer involved in shooting unnerves Somali community

A community that once encouraged its members to participate in law enforcement now questions whether the system is racist after the conviction of one of their own

Mohamed Noor
Mohamed Noor and his legal team arrive at the Hennepin County Government Center after the jury reached a verdict on April 30, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Noor is charged with second-degree intentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in July 2017. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The Minneapolis Somali-American community has become further distanced from law enforcement after former police officer Mohamed Noor was convicted last week for fatally shooting an unarmed civilian in 2017.

The verdict against Noor, a Somali-American officer, has sparked outrage by community members who believe the ruling will stop young people from pursuing law enforcement careers and shows systematic racism within the justice system. Calls have been raised for an outside investigation into the case after Noor, 33, was found guilty of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Justine Damond, 40, an Australian woman who was in the states to be with her fiancé.

READ MORE: Ex-Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot woman testifies he feared for his, partner’s lives

According to Minneapolis Star-Tribune, leaders in the city are attempting to reach out to members of the Somali community in an attempt to bridge the gap between them. One of the hopes is to have a meeting with the Somali-American Police Association, along with additional community members, during the traditional Islamic observance of iftar, the meal that breaks the fast of Ramadan, which this year began on Monday and will end on June 4.

On the day of Noor’s conviction, a young Somali man graduated from the police academy, but it did not receive the same reception as past achievements.

“When somebody is graduating we all dress up and we will go there and celebrate,” said Waheid Siraach, co-founder of the Somali-American Police Association. “There was no such thing this time around. One of us was going to jail, and another one was coming out of the academy.”

The verdict for Noor did not surprise AK Hassan, the first Somali-American elected to the Minneapolis Park Board. Hassan said he felt it highlights the racial disparities in the  criminal justice system. He mentioned the $20 million settlement that was reached with Damond’s family.

READ MORE: Prosecutors accuse Minneapolis police supervisor of missteps in Noor trial

“Justine deserves justice,” said Hassan. “But the criminal justice system has never worked in favor of people of color.”

On the day of the verdict, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, herself a Somali-American, released a statement outlining the irony of a Black cop being convicted of shooting a white woman when white officers so often are acquitted for the killings of Blacks.

“It cannot be lost, however, that it comes in the wake of acquittals for officers who took the lives of people of color,” she said. “We must have the same level of accountability and justice in all officer-involved killings and address violence-based training for police officers.”

Current SAPA president, Haissain Hussein believes Noor was singled out and aggressively charged in the case by the Minneapolis PD and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. The SAPA, a nationwide organization, now believe the verdict will discourage recruiting to police forces. Across the country, the group has recruited 20 officers to various police departments, including eight to Minneapolis.

“It’s going to have a devastating impact on recruiting young people into the force, and I don’t know how long it will last,” said Siraach. “Should they be fearful of the bad guy on the street that’s trying to hurt them, or should they be fearful of the system itself?”

Sentencing for Noor is currently scheduled for June 7, which some fear will fall during the festivities for Eid al-Fatir, a celebratory Ramadan conclusion.

“This Eid will be a very sad Eid,” said Mohamed Abdi Muhumud, who told the Star-Tribune  he prays at the same mosque as Noor’s father. “What’s happening is unfair.”

READ MORE: White supremacist group erects memorial for victim of police shooting