MINNEAPOLIS — Mohamed Noor, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder in the 2017 shooting death of an unarmed woman who had called 911 seeking help, was sentenced Friday to about 12 and a half years in prison.
Mr. Noor’s conviction in April was unusual: It is rare for prosecutors to try police officers for such shootings, and he became the first Minnesota officer in decades to be convicted in an on-duty, fatal shooting.
The prosecution raised concerns in the area’s large Somali-American community about whether Mr. Noor, who was born in Somalia, was treated differently than a white colleague would have been. After the sentencing on Friday, several protesters at the courthouse questioned the system’s fairness.
“Wrong Complexion For Blue Protection,” one man’s sign said.
Mr. Noor was convicted 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. His lawyers asked for probation and short stints in jail. Judge Kathryn L. Quaintance’s sentence fell within the state guidelines.
Dozens of people filed letters with the court seeking leniency for Mr. Noor, whose arrival as his precinct’s first Somali-American officer had been celebrated by the city’s mayor.
Elsewhere, in the small number of cases where officers have been convicted, sentences have tended to be less strict than they might have been. Jason Van Dyke, a former Chicago officer convicted of second-degree murder and other crimes in the death of Laquan McDonald, a teenager who was shot 16 times, was sentenced this year to just under seven years; prosecutors had called for at least 18 years. In Balch Springs, Tex., Roy D. Oliver II, an officer convicted of murder in the death of Jordan Edwards, 15, was sentenced last year to 15 years behind bars; the prosecution was seeking at least 60 years.
The shooting of Ms. Ruszczyk had been a mystery from the start — far different from police shootings that were recorded on cellphones or squad car dashboard cameras. There was no video or audio of what had happened.
Late on the night of July 15, 2017, Ms. Ruszczyk, who was about to get married and sometimes used her fiancé’s surname, twice called 911 to report what she thought was a sexual assault in the alley behind her Minneapolis home.
Mr. Noor and his partner were sent to the area to investigate, and the shooting soon followed. It was never entirely clear how the officers and Ms. Ruszczyk had wound up crossing paths, but testimony at Mr. Noor’s trial suggested that she came outside in the darkened alley to talk to the officers, and startled them.
At his trial, Mr. Noor said he feared for his life when he saw Ms. Ruszczyk approaching his cruiser and made a split-second decision to shoot. “She could have had a weapon,” Mr. Noor said in court.
Lawyers for Mr. Noor have acknowledged that Ms. Ruszczyk in fact posed no threat. She had been holding a glittery cellphone and standing outside a rolled-down window of the squad car when she was shot.
Mr. Noor’s lawyers said the events were a tragedy but not a crime. Prosecutors said that Mr. Noor had acted unreasonably — firing at a shadowy figure without even yelling a warning — and that it was murder.
The shooting of Ms. Ruszczyk set off outrage as far away as Australia, where she had lived for most of her life. The trial drew intense attention among Minnesota’s Somali-American residents, many of whom wondered whether Mr. Noor, who was born in Somalia, would be treated fairly.
And the events forced changes in the policies and leadership of the Minneapolis Police Department. The chief was forced out, and the department rewrote its body camera policy. Both Mr. Noor and his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, had been wearing cameras that night, but neither officer had them turned on when the shooting occurred.