Family of Slain Woman Files Lawsuit Against Minneapolis Officer

The family of an Australian-American woman who was killed by a former Minneapolis police officer last year after she called 911 to report a possible assault filed a lawsuit Monday alleging the officer was inexperienced and unfit for duty.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court alleges Justine Ruszczyk Damond’s civil rights were violated when she was shot July 15, 2017, by former Officer Mohamed Noor. The lawsuit also claims Noor and his partner at the time, Officer Matthew Harrity, conspired to cover up the facts surrounding the shooting and made a conscious decision not to activate their body cameras.

“The result: A nightmare come to life, without the evidence the MPD ordered its officers to collect and where, as a consequence, those same officers are free to speak (or not speak) with impunity, furthering their own interests rather than the interests of justice,” the lawsuit says, referring to the Minneapolis Police Department as MPD.

The shooting, which drew international attention, cost the police chief her job and forced major revisions to the department’s policy on body cameras.

The lawsuit, filed by Damond’s father, John Ruszczyk, seeks monetary damages. It names both officers, the city, and the current and former police chief as defendants. Justine Damond’s legal name is Justine Ruszczyk, but she had been using the last name of her fiance, Don Damond, professionally.

Prosecutors have charged Noor with murder and manslaughter, alleging he acted recklessly with disregard for human life. Prosecutors say there was no evidence Noor encountered a threat that justified the use of deadly force. His criminal case is pending and he was fired from the Police Department.

Prosecutors say Damond, a 40-year-old life coach, had called 911 on July 15, 2017, to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. Noor responded with Harrity, who was driving. Prosecutors say Harrity told investigators he heard a voice and a thump on the back of the squad car, and glimpsed a person’s head and shoulders outside his window.

Harrity told investigators that both officers got “spooked” before Noor fired.

The officers did not turn on their body cameras until after the shooting. There was no squad camera video.

Messages left Monday with the city, the Police Department, and Noor’s attorney were not immediately returned. Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, has said previously that that Noor acted as he had been trained and was consistent with department policy.