The family of an Australian woman shot dead by police officers in Minneapolis is suing the city, alleging its law enforcement violated the civil rights of Justine Rusczcyk.
Ruszcyk—also known among her friends as Justine Damond—was killed after calling police to report a disturbance. The 40-year old life coach heard what she thought were the sounds of a woman being raped.
When officers arrived to Ruszczyk’s affluent Minneapolis suburb, she approached a patrol car to describe the situation in greater detail.
Responding officer Mohamed Noor, who’s since left the Minneapolis Police Department, shot Ruszczyk through the door of his car. He’s since been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Reuters reports that Noor was fired the day of the shooting but is now free on a $40,000 bail.
Noor’s attorneys say their client intends to plead not guilty and argue that he used reasonable force to halt Ruszcyk’s approach.
Meanwhile, members of the deceased woman’s family are seeking $50 million in damages from Minneapolis.
“She saw something, she said something—and she got killed for it,” said Robert Bennett, a lawyer for Ruszczyk’s family. The lawsuit also accuses Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, of failing to turn on their body cameras.
That lack of action, claims the suit, entails a conspiracy to prevent the public from ever seeing what happened outside the Ruszczyk residence.
“We want the Minneapolis police culture to be reformed in such a way and to the extent necessary to stop such senseless acts from happening again and again,” said John Ruszczyk, the victim’s father and a plaintiff in the suit against the city. “As the complaint shows, the police department’s problems are systematic.
“Justine died in her pajamas trying to help someone else,” her father said. “We cannot let her death be in vain.”
The July 15th shooting, which took placed last year, ‘perplexed people in Minneapolis and in Australia,’ according to the New York Times. Ruszczyk, a 40-year old yoga and meditation instructor, lived in an affluent suburb. A white migrant from a wealthy nation, few would have thought the woman might run afoul of police profiling.
Unlike the same sorts of cases condemned by movements like Black Lives Matters, it seems neither Officer Noor nor his partner ever got a good look at Ruszczyk. Harrity later recounted being startled by a noise off to the side of his cruiser.
That same noise, writes the Times, prompted Noor to fire through the patrol car’s door.
Susan Segal, city attorney for Minneapolis, issued a statement responding to the suit and its allegations.
“The loss of a life, the loss of Justine Ruszczyk, is a tragedy,” Segal said. “We are reviewing the civil lawsuit and will be responding to it. Meanwhile, serious criminal charges are currently pending against Mohamed Noor, and it’s critically important that the criminal case be allowed to proceed without interference.”