The family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond has filed a lawsuit seeking $50 million in damages from the city of Minneapolis and the police officers involved in the woman's shooting death last July, KMSP-TV reported.
Attorneys for John Ruszczyk, Damond's father, filed the 45-page, four-count civil lawsuit on Monday in a Minneapolis Federal Court, according to WCCO-TV. Ruszczyk said he hopes that the lawsuit will change the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department.
“It’s beyond belief that she was a threat,” Robert Bennett, a lawyer representing the Ruszczyk family, said during a news conference.
In March, former Police Officer Mohamed Noor, 32, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the Australian woman's death. He was fired the same day.
What's the background?
Noor and his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, had responded to Damond's 911 call about a possible sexual assault in her neighborhood shortly before midnight July 17, 2017.
The officers were getting ready to leave after not finding any suspicious activity when they were allegedly startled by Damond in the alley behind her home, according to reports.
From inside the police vehicle, Noor fired his weapon which struck and killed the 40-year-old unarmed woman who was dressed in her pajamas.
The officers' failure to activate the bodycams “deprived investigators and jurors of the digital audio-video evidence the officers were mandated to obtain,” Bennett said.
Noor hasn't entered a plea, but he is expected back in court in September, according to KMSP.
What else did the lawyer say?
Bennett said he doesn't understand how the officers feared for their lives that night.
"They shouldn’t be police officers. They shouldn’t have guns. They should go do something else, not be police officers with guns in the Fulton neighborhood,” he said.
The lawsuit alleges that the Minneapolis Police Department has a history of failure to discipline its officers and a history of what it called the "Blue wall of silence," referring to the officers' unwillingness to testify, WCCO reported.
Minneapolis Police Union President Bob Kroll called the accusation a myth created by attorneys, such as Bennett.
The documents also accuse the officers of conspiring to conceal evidence.
What did Damond's father say?
Ruszczyk issued the following statement, according to KMSP.
I have instructed my Attorneys to file a Complaint against Officers Noor, Harrity, and the City of Minneapolis for the violent, unnecessary, and unconstitutional death of my daughter, Justine Maia Ruszczyk.
The damages for the violation of Justine’s most important civil right, the right to life, are immense.
They include the unimaginable suffering she endured from the time the bullet struck her until she died, the loss of her upcoming marriage to her soulmate, Don, the loss of parenthood - something she dearly wanted - the loss of work and play, the loss of special relationships with her friends and family, the loss of economic opportunity, and the loss of the satisfaction of helping others find their way and their peace in this world; something for which she had a unique gift.
In addition, we also seek an award of punitive damages in whatever amount a Federal Jury thinks is proper to send an unmistakable message to these officers and the City of Minneapolis and its Police Department that such conduct is wrong, and will no longer be tolerated.
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.
As the Complaint shows, the police department’s problems are systemic. Our only real tool is a verdict that is too large to ignore or forget.
If Justine’s family and her friends around the world must forever suffer her loss and endure life in the future without her, it is fitting that important changes should follow that make people safer from and better served by the Minneapolis Police Department.
These changes should make the City of Minneapolis and its Police Department accountable for their actions when those actions are not in accordance with their oath and the U.S. Constitution.
These changes should make the Minneapolis Police Department command and control structure act like they are in control and ensure they act in a manner consistent with their moral and legal obligations to protect the communities they serve.
Justine would have wanted these changes because they are just and because people would benefit from the tragedy of her death.
Justine died in her pajamas trying to help someone else. We cannot let her death be in vain.