Family of woman shot and killed by police files lawsuit for $50 million, alleges officers tried to hide what really happened
The lawsuit alleges that Justine's civil rights had been violated when she was shot by Officer Mohamed Noor on July 15, 2017. Her family has also alleged a coverup by the officers.
The family of Justine Damond, the Australian woman who was shot and killed by a police officer after she had called 911 to report a possible assault, has filed a lawsuit which alleges the cop and his partner have hidden what actually happened. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court and it alleges that Justine Ruszczyk Damond's civil rights had been violated when she was shot by Officer Mohamed Noor on July 15, 2017. Noor was fired after her death and has now been charged with murder. The lawsuit also claims that Noor and Officer Matthew Harrity, his partner, schemed to hide what really happened at the scene and made the deliberate decision to leave their body cameras deactivated.
The lawsuit says: "Had they done so, there would be video and audio recording of the fatal shooting of Justine, and Harrity and Noor would not be free to concoct a story in a vain attempt to insulate Noor from civil and criminal liability."
The lawsuit is looking for $50 million and punitive damages. John Ruszczyk, Damond's father, said in a statement that the issues inside the Minneapolis Police Department are "systemic". He also said he wanted to see some reform "to the extent necessary to stop such senseless acts from happening again and again", reported the New York Post. The lawsuit that was filed by Ruszczyk named both the officers, the city, as well as the current and former police chiefs as the defendants.
Susan Segal, the City Attorney, said in a statement that the city was currently reviewing the lawsuit. She also said that the criminal case against Noor should be allowed to carry on without any interference. Thomas Plunkett, Noor's attorney had mentioned before that the former officer had only been acting out what he had been trained to do.
40-year-old Damond was a dual Australian-US citizen and had been living in Minnesota for more than two years before she was killed. Her case made headlines across the globe and the public outrage forced the Minneapolis police chief Janeé Harteau to quit her job as well as make the department majorly revise their policy on the use of body cameras. Justine Maia Ruszczyk was Damond's legal name but she had been professionally using the last name of her fiance, Don Damond.
According to prosecutors, the life coach had dialed 911 so that she could report a possible sexual assault that may have been taking place behind her home in Minnesota. Noor and Harrity were the responding officers to the scene with the latter being the one who was driving. The prosecutors said that Harrity had told investigators that he has heard a loud thump in the back of the car and saw a person's head and shoulders outside his window.
He told the investigators that he and Noor had gotten "spooked" and Noor fired moments after. The officers had not turned on their body cameras before the shooting and only did it after the shots had been fired. The squad car did not provide any video from the camera as well. Robert Bennett, the family's attorney, said: "Justine saw something, and she said something … and she got killed for doing so. And a year later, we don’t know why that was. We haven’t had any explanation, so we’re going to sue these people to find out."
Noor has still not spoken to the investigators and has invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination. The lawsuit also alleges that Harrity's version of what happened at the scene changed after he was able to speak to an attorney. According to Bennett, both Noor and Harrity have committed an "overt act of conspiracy" at the time they decided not to activate the body cameras.
The entire agency had not been using body cameras much at the time of Damond's shooting. A little after her death, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo revised the department's policy to use the body cameras more regularly and also enforce discipline. The lawsuit also alleged that the department failed to discipline officers, who changed their accounts of incidents to "protect one of their own", pretty regularly. It mentions that many officers in the department refused to cooperate in the case.
The criminal case against former Officer Noor is still in the works. He has already pleaded not guilty to the charges. The prosecutors have said that there has been no evidence that Noor faced a threat that would justify the use of deadly force.