After changing careers to join the Minneapolis Police Department in 2015, Mohamed Noor was lauded by the mayor and his fellow Somalis as a welcome addition to the force.
“I want to take a moment to recognize Officer Mohamed Noor, the newest Somali officer in the Minneapolis Police Department,” Mayor Betsy Hodges posted on Facebook last year. “Officer Noor has been assigned to the 5th Precinct, where his arrival has been highly celebrated, particularly by the Somali community in and around Karmel Mall.”
Noor, 31, who has two active complaints against him in his police file, is one of nine Somali officers in the department, and he became the first to patrol the Fifth Precinct in the city’s southwest neighborhoods. He worked the “middle watch” evening shift, and on Monday went from one of hundreds of the city’s anonymous beat cops to the latest officer embroiled in controversy after the fatal shooting of 40-year-old Justine Damond, an unarmed civilian, in her south Minneapolis alley after she called 911 to report a possible crime.
The Somali American Police Association, of which Noor is a member, declined to comment, as did Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll. Both said they are waiting for the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to complete its investigation.
Thomas Plunkett, Noor’s attorney, said Monday that the officer “extends his condolences to the family and anyone else who has been touched by this event. He takes their loss seriously and keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers.”
“He came to the United States at a young age and is thankful to have had so many opportunities,” Plunkett said in the statement. “He takes these events very seriously because, for him, being a police officer is a calling.”
Meanwhile, some Somali residents who knew the officer are scrambling to understand what happened. Others chose to remain silent, wary that the incident could shed a negative light on the state’s Somali population.
Suud Olat said he did not know Noor personally but saw him at community events. The first time he met Noor was six months ago at a soccer tournament in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood where Noor and other officers were patrolling. Olat described Noor as a kind, fair person who cares about protecting citizens. “I feel sad,” Olat said. “As a community, we love members of our community who serve in the police.”
Abdikadir Hassan, a candidate for the Park Board seat in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, said Noor was considered a role model. “He is inspiring to young people in the community,” Hassan said. “He is very supportive and good with the kids. He is such a lovely guy.”
Noor holds a degree in business administration, management and economics from Augsburg College. Before joining the department, he worked in commercial and residential property management in Minneapolis and St. Louis, and was general manager of a hotel in Eden Prairie.
According to the Office of Police Conduct Review, Noor has had three complaints filed against him, two of which remain open. Another was closed without discipline. Noor has been sued once in his short career with the police department, stemming from an incident on May 25 in which he and two other officers went to a woman’s home and took her to a hospital, which the woman alleges constituted false imprisonment, assault and battery. According to the ongoing lawsuit, the officers claimed they had reason to believe the woman was suffering a mental health crisis — which she denied — and Noor “grabbed her right wrist and upper arm,” exacerbating a previous shoulder injury in the process.
Plunkett said in a statement that the current environment for police is difficult, but Noor accepted it as part of his calling. The officer is a caring person with a family he loves, and he empathizes with the loss others are experiencing, he said.
Divorce documents filed in December describe Noor as a caring, involved father who was at times consumed by the demands of his job.
His mother often watched Noor’s son while he was at work. They spoke Somali at home, but Noor insisted that English be his son’s first language.
An evaluator sent to observe Noor interacting with his son concluded that he never raised his voice and that his “even keel and calm demeanor may have ultimately been responsible” for calming the agitated child down.
Sixth Ward City Council candidate Mohamud Noor, who is unrelated to the officer, said the community is doubly shaken because “this is another officer-involved shooting and the officer is a member of the Somali community.”
“People are shocked because of the tragedy of the killing that took place,” Mohamud Noor said. “This should be treated as a police-civilian issue. There is a loss of life and we’re always concerned. We believe the police should be held accountable as any other police shooting.”
Somali activist Omar Jamal, who knew Mohamed Noor from group breakfasts and community meetings, said he is waiting for facts to emerge. “We don’t know what went wrong or what happened,” he said. “But becoming an officer was a dream come true. Not only was it symbolic to become a member of the force, but confirmation of being part of the United States.”
Staff writers Andy Mannix and Libor Jany contributed to this report.