MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — John Ruszczyk, the father of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, said Tuesday he was satisfied with the verdict in trial of her killer, former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.
But he also offered a sharp critique of the initial handling of the case.
“We believe the conviction was reached despite the active resistance of a number of Minneapolis officers, including the head of their union, and either active resistance or gross incompetence of the [Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension], particularly at the beginning of this investigation,” Ruszczyk said.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman put it this way.
“Initially there were mistakes by Minneapolis Police and the BCA,” Freeman said.
Some of the mistakes have resulted in policy changes, including a new, more specific police body camera policy, requiring body cameras to be on during all calls.
“I believe it’s part of a learning curve,” said Don Davis, former Brooklyn Park police chief and commissioner of public safety. “The body cam policy at the time as I understand it did not require them to be on at all contacts.”
Davis says some of the mistakes are clear cut. The squad Noor was in when he fired the fatal shot was processed, then washed and returned to service just a few days later.
“The squad car, I am not sure what the circumstances were with the squad car, but that to me was a vital piece of evidence, so it should have been preserved like any other piece of evidence,” Davis said.
Testimony at the trial revealed responding officers were initially confused about exactly what had happened at the shooting scene. Davis says that is in large part because of how rare the circumstances were.
“To fire from inside the car when no shot had been directed to them initially, very unusual,” Davis said.
WCCO-TV received a statement from Lt. Bob Kroll, the head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis.
“There was no resistance whatsoever. I never gave any officers advice to not cooperate,” Kroll said.
BCA Superintendent Drew Evans, Superintendent of the BCA, released this statement to WCCO-TV Wednesday afternoon:
Justine Ruszczyk Damond’s death is a tragedy that should not have occurred. Her family and friends continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.
Officer involved shooting investigations are among the most challenging conducted by the BCA. Our agents conduct thorough, comprehensive and independent investigations in order to present all the facts to a county attorney for review. In this case, BCA agents did just that, working 2,037 hours and writing over 260 reports while working closely with the Hennepin County Attorney’s office from the beginning.
Because of a potential appeal, the investigation remains open under Minnesota law. As a result, we are unable to discuss specifics of how the investigation was conducted at this time.
Gov. Tim Walz Wednesday ordered the BCA to provide a report on how it investigated the case.