Killer cop verdict proves America’s sad truth
Questions have been asked about the guilty verdict handed down to former US police officer Mohamed Noor, with suggestions it was racially motivated.
Noor, 33, faces up to 25 years in jail after he was found guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the death of Australian woman Justine Ruszczyk on July 15, 2017.
He was acquitted of the more serious charge of second degree murder (intentionally killing another person).
"Nearly two years ago my fiance, Justine Damond Ruszczyk, was shot dead in her pyjamas outside our home without warning as she walked up to a police car which she had summoned," Ms Ruszczyk's fiance Don Damond told reporters following the verdict.
"Ironically the Minneapolis Police Department emblem on the squad door reads: 'To protect with courage and to serve with compassion'.
"Where were these values that night? That night there was a tragic lapse of care and complete disregard for the sanctity of life. The evidence in this case clearly showed an egregious failure of the Minneapolis Police Department."
The Somali-American is the first police officer in Minnesota to be convicted of an on-duty shooting.
But some say that while he was "absolutely guilty" over her tragic death, there are various cases of white police officers being acquitted in similar or worse circumstances.
It's led some Twitter users to question whether Noor's sentencing was racially motivated.
Addressing criticism after the verdict, Hennepin County lawyer Mike Freeman said: "I've heard a small group in the community make disparaging remarks about me and this office to the effect that I won't charge white cops who shoot black people, but I'll charge black cops who shoot white people.
"That simply is not true. Race has never been a factor in any of my decisions and never will be."
Minnesota-based civil rights lawyer Nekima Levy Armstrong said the sentencing sends a message to white officers in the area that they "will still be able to kill with impunity".
"First officer convicted in Minnesota for killing a (white) civilian is a Black, Muslim, Somali man," she wrote on Facebook. "Coincidence? I think not. Will other (white) officers be held accountable for killing civilians in Minnesota, in light of this verdict? Not likely.
"Do communities of color feel safer now that one officer has been convicted? I would venture to say no.
"Black lives still do not matter in our justice system, which comes as no surprise to those of us who have been paying attention. Cops in Minnesota will still be able to kill with impunity."
In an interview with the ABC, she said "many believe there is a double standard at play in this particular case".
She branded Mr Freeman a "liar", arguing that in many of these cases, concerns have been repeatedly raised about his "unwillingness to speak the truth".
"In this instance, Mike Freeman lied once again by claiming that Justine's case is an exception in terms of the way in which authorities typically handle investigations.
"What we're claiming is the Minneapolis Police Department and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension consistently undermined access to justice for victims of police violence. They have pletny of botched investigations and inaccuracies for years... as well as corruption at the hands of MPD and the Bureau. Our concerns are falling on deaf ears."
She pointed to the case of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old unarmed black man who was shot by two police officers at point-blank range in November 2015. No charges were filed against the officers.
On Noor's case, she said: "We're seeing hypocrisy in this situation, we're seeing a racial double standard in this situation, we're seeing a black officer being scapegoated in this situation, and we're seeing Mike Freeman operate under the pretence that the system works."
Various studies have shown black people in the US are much more likely than white people to be shot by police.
In 2015, The Guardian found that black men aged 18 to 34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers, despite only making up 2 per cent of the total US population.
In 2016, the same research found police killed black Americans at a rate of 6.66 per 1 million people, compared to 2.9 per million for white Americans.
Part of this could be because police tend to patrol high-crime neighbourhoods, which are disproportionately black.
But other research has found shooter bias could play a role in some officers' instinctive reaction when it comes to killing black people. For example, Vox has reported on studies showing officers are quicker to shoot black suspects in video game simulations.
At the same time, numerous high-profile cases in recent history show white police officers who fatally shoot black people are often acquitted or receive lenient sentences.
Police acquittals in themselves are not out of the ordinary. The National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, which analysed more than 3000 criminal cases against police officers between 2009 and 2010, found that only 33 per cent of officers were convicted - with just a third of those convicted serving prison sentences.
But this has some people wondering why Noor is facing up to 25 years in prison when other officers - like in the cases below - were cleared.
MICHAEL BROWN JR
In August 2014, 18-year-old black man Michael Brown Jr was fatally shot by 28-year-old white police officer Darren Wilson in Missouri, St Louis. He died around 45 metres away from the officer's vehicle.
The death of the unarmed black teenager prompted protests in the suburb for weeks.
In November that year, the St Louis County prosecutor announced that a grand jury had decided not to indict Wilson, sparking another wave of protests.
In 2014, unarmed black man Eric Garner was killed in Staten Island by New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo.
Footage showed Pantaleo wrapping his arm around Garner's neck and choking him until he fell to the floor, gasping that he couldn't breathe.
The NYPD banned chokeholds in 1993, on the grounds that the technique was too dangerous to use. A New York medical examiner ruled that the death was a homicide.
But Pantaleo testified that he didn't use a chokehold, but a "wrestling move". He also claimed he got off of Garner "as quick as he could" - despite the footage showing himself and other officers piled on top of him even after he had fallen to the ground.
There was no indictment against Pantaleo - a decision which sparked widespread protests in New York City and San Francisco.
Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old boy who was killed in 2014 by white police officer Timothy Loehman in Ohio.
Police were called on Rice after receiving a police dispatch call regarding a black male that "keeps pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people".
After approaching Rice, Loehmann shot him twice, hitting him once in the torso. Rice died the following day.
A grand jury decided not to indict Loehmann or his police partner, saying: "Given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes, and communications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police."
In 2015, 25-year-old black man Freddie Carlos Gray Jr was arrested in Baltimore for possessing what police alleged was an illegal knife.
While he was being transported in a police van, Gray fell into a coma and suffered a fatal spinal cord injury.
He died a week later, in a death deemed a homicide by a medical examiner.
Six Baltimore officers were tried separately over the incident. Charges against all officers were dropped.
ANTWON ROSE II
Last June, unarmed black teenager Antwon Rose II was shot by East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeldand later died in McKeesport Hospital.
While responding to a drive-by shooting in North Braddock, police said witnesses described a car similar to the one the 17-year-old and two others were seen in nearby.
Police stopped the car and ordered the driver to step out. While he was being handcuffed, Rose and the third occupant ran away. Rosfield fired three rounds, striking Rose with all three.
Rosfeld was charged with criminal homicide, but was later acquitted.
In 2016, 32-year-old black man Philando Castile was pulled over by Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez, while driving with his girlfriend and their four-year-old daughter.
After being asked for his licence and registration, Castile told Yanez he had a firearm.
Yanez replied, "Don't reach for it then". Castile and his girlfriend repeatedly tried to tell the officer he was not reaching for his gun, before Yanez repeated "Don't pull it out" and shot him seven times.
The moments immediately after the shooting were live-streamed by Castile's girlfriend on Facebook in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, as she spoke to Yanez while Castile lay slumped over in the car. He died 20 minutes later.
Yanez was charged with one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.
The following year, he was acquitted of all charges.