Former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor's Trial For Shooting Death Of Justine Damond Begins
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Ex-Minnesota Officer Who Killed Unarmed White Woman Becomes State's First Cop Convicted Of Murder

Mohamed Noor was found guilty of third-degree murder and manslaughter.

A black former Minneapolis police officer who gunned down an unarmed white woman was convicted of third-degree murder Tuesday (April 30), sparking debate over racal injustice involving police shootings. Mohamed Noor became the first police officer in Minnesota to be convicted of an on-duty murder.

According to the Associated Press, a diverse jury convicted Noor of third-degree murder and manslaughter, but acquitted him of intentional second-degree murder, for the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

Damond, a 40-year-old dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, was shot to death after she called 911 to report a rape in the alley behind her house. Noor, a 33-year-old muslim immigrant from Somalia, was a two-year veteran of the force at the time of the shooting. He was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department after being charged for killing Damond.

Of the night in question, Noor testified that he and his partner, Matthew Harrity, were in their squad car when they heard a loud noise in the alley. Damond later appeared and banged on Harrity’s window. Noor alleged that he heard Harrity yell “Oh Jesus!” as he attempted to pull out his firearm.

Noor went on to claim that he shot and killed Damond to “stop the threat and save my partner’s life.” Both officers had their body cameras turned off during the shooting but turned them on after the fact.

The jury verdict, handed down after two days of deliberations, raises questions about Philando Castile's murder during a 2016 traffic stop. Castile, a 32-year-old Minnesota school cafeteria worker, was shot and killed by St. Anthony police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, while reaching for his license and registration as the officer requested.

Castile was licensed to carry a weapon and informed the officer that he had a firearm. Yanez then pulled out his gun and began shooting Castile, as his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter sat in the car. Yanez claimed he feared for his life and was acquitted of two counts of second-degree manslaughter. A dozen people were killed by Minnesota cops in 2018, per the Washington Post's national database. The state has also come under fire for its lack of transparency in police involved shootings.

Noor was taken into custody immediately after the verdict, despite his attorney requesting that he remain free until sentencing on June 7. He could spend up to 16 years in prison for both convictions.

After expressing condolences to the victim's family, the Somali American Police Association released a statement noting that the “aggressive” prosecution proves underlying motives.

“The devastating circumstances surrounding this case have made a substantial impact on both Ruszczyk’s and Officer Mohamed Noor’s families,” the statement reads.

“Officer Noor is the first police officer in Minnesota’s history to be convicted of murder while in the line of duty. SAPA believes the institutional prejudices against people of color, including officers of color, have heavily influenced the verdict of this case. The aggressive manner in which the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office went after Officer Noor reveals that there were other motives at play other than serving justice.”

See more reactions to the verdict below.

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7.7. Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Jamaica, Cuba And Miami

A powerful earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea on Tuesday (Jan. 28) triggering temporary tsunami warnings and tremors felt as far away as South Florida. The 7.7. magnitude quake hit the waters between Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman Islands, according to the United States Geological Survey and the International Tsunami Information Center.

The quake, which struck roughly 86 miles northwest off the coast of Montego Bay, Jamaica, resulted in multiple aftershocks including a a 6.1 tremor near the Cayman Island, and a 4.4 aftershock. “Light shaking” was also reported in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

“Despite the large size of the earthquake, the fact that it occurred offshore and away from high population areas lessened its societal impact,” the USGS said. The organization described the quake as “moderate shaking” in parts of Cuba and Jamaica.

The quake comes nearly a month after a 6.4. magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico, but the USGS said that the “seismic events” were unrelated.

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Black People Make Up More Than 50% Of U.S. Homeless Population, Study Finds

Black people in the U.S. are disproportionately impacted by homelessness, per an Annual Homeless Assessment Report released by the Housing and Urban Department. According to the report, blacks account for more than 50% of the country’s homeless population, despite making up only 13% of the U.S. population.

“African Americans have remained considerably overrepresented among the homeless population compared to the U.S. population,” the report states. “African Americans accounted for 40% of all people experiencing homelessness in 2019 and 52% of people experiencing homelessness as members of families with children.

“In contrast, 48% of all people experiencing homelessness were white, compared with 77% of the U.S. population.” People identifying as Hispanic or Latino are bout “22% of the homeless population but only 18% of the populations overall.”

As of 2019, the U.S. homeless population swelled to 568,000, an increase of about 10,000 from the previous year. In 2019, Roughly 35,000 of those experiencing unaccompanied homelessness were under the age of 25, a 4% decrease from 2018. The number of those experiencing chronic homelessness increased by 9% between 2018 and 2019.

A staggering 52% of black families experience homelessness, compared to 35% for white families.

The goal of the report is to “demonstrate continued progress toward ending homelessness, but also a need to re-calibrate policy to make future efforts more effective and aligned with the unique needs of different communities.”

HUD, which is has been releasing the annual housing stats since 2007, shows a 3% bump in the number of those experiencing homelessness on any given night, a 16% increase in California, and a “decrease” in other states. California accounts for 53% (108,432 people) off all unsheltered homeless people in the country. Despite being only twice as large as Florida, California’s homeless population is nine times that of the Sunshine State, which came in at a distant second place with 6% (12,476 people). New York, Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington have the highest rates of homelessness per 10,000 people.

Numerous variables come into play when determining the origin of the black homeless epidemic due to a longstanding system of oppression in housing, and beyond. Black families are twice as  likely to experience poverty in the U.S., compared to white families; and in spite of laws against open discrimination, black renters face overt and covert financial and racial prejudice, in addition to gentrification and the racial pay gap.

On Jan. 7, HUD unveiled a housing proposal that attempts to undue Obama-era housing mandates put in place to prevent racial discrimination. The newly-released proposal may end up further promoting racial discrimination.

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Black Texas Teen Barred From Graduation Because Of His Dreadlocks

A black Texas teen was suspended and is barred from graduation because of his dreadlocks, NBC News reports. DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, has to cut his hair if he wants to walk the graduation stage.

DeAndre, whose family hales from Trinidad, has had locks for several years, gets A’s and B’s in school, and wears his hair in compliance with the school’s dress code, his mother, Sandy Arnold, told Houston’s NBC affiliate KPRC. “The dress code is [hair] off the shoulders above the earlobes and out of the eyes,” she explained.

The school district allegedly changed the dress code around Christmas of last year. According to the latest Barbers Hill Student Handbook, hair must be “clean and well groomed.” Students are not allowed to cover their heads, dye their hair, or wear “geometric or unusual patterns (such as Mohawks and Faux hawks) shaved or cut in the hair.” For male students, hair can’t fall below the eyebrows or earlobes and must not extend “below the top of a T-shirt collar.”Beards, goatees and mustaches are also not allowed.

DeAndre’s mother said that she reached out to board members and the superintendent to rectify the issue but with no luck.

“They say that even [when] my hair is up if it were down it would be not in compliance with the dress code. However, I don’t take it down in school,” said DeAndre.

The teen proudly rock his dreadlocks because the hairstyle connects him to Trinidadian culture. “I really like that part of Trinidadian culture. I really embrace that.”

Barbers Hill Independent School District released a statement noting that the district enforces a “community supported hair length policy” that has been in place “for decades.” The statement adds, “Barber Hill is a state leader with high expectations in all areas!”

The teenager's story is similar to that of a 6-year-old boy in Texas whose school also wanted him to cut off his dreadlocks. DeAndre's mother said her son won’t be getting a hair cut. “This is a pat of who he is. So [we're] absolutely not going to cut his hair.”

See more in the video above.



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