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City of Minneapolis settles lawsuit with family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond

May 03, 2019 10:14 PM

The City of Minneapolis has settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by family members of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, Mayor Jacob Frey and other city officials announced Friday.

The family will receive $18 million under the terms of the agreement. They will also get $2 million, which they will then donate to the Fund for Safe Communities at the Minneapolis Foundation, Frey said. 

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Frey said the City Council had voted unanimously to approve the settlement, and he would be approving it shortly.

"This is not a victory for anyone, but rather a way for our city to move forward," Frey said. "And I do believe we will move forward united in the shared belief that such a tragedy should never occur in our city."

Frey said he could not comment on what occurred during mediation over the past couple of days, or at a settlement conference, which occurred Friday morning.

Damond was fatally shot by former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in July 2017. He was found guilty of murder in the third degree and manslaughter in the second degree earlier this week.

Her family had filed the $50 million wrongful death lawsuit last summer.

Relatives said had it not been for the actions of Noor, his partner Matthew Harrity, the police department and the City of Minneapolis, the 40-year-old life coach and yoga teacher would still be alive. 

The family turned to attorney Bob Bennett, who has represented the families of others involved in police shootings, like the family of Philando Castile.

His mother secured a $3 million settlement from the city of St. Anthony.

Then there's what was previously the largest payout in Minneapolis history, $4.5 million for the shooting of Duy Ngo in 2007.

"Getting an amount that was undeniably significant and undeniably transformational was important," Bennett said of Friday's settlement agreement. "And the fact that they (family members) accomplished what they wanted to accomplish with the civil action itself."

Bennett said the criminal trial only bolstered his clients' civil case.

"There's not been a murder conviction before in the state of Minnesota for an officer who shot another human being," he said at a press conference. "There's not been another case where the testimony of Mohamed Noor would have effectively doomed any defense of the civil action."

Because Minneapolis is self-insured, it is financially responsible for any damages awarded in a settlement. 

"We know that no amount of money can heal the pain of the Ruszczyk family, or of all the families who have lost a loved one in this way," City Council President Lisa Bender said.

A statement was provided from Chanda Smith Baker, Senior Vice President of Community Impact from the Minneapolis Foundation:

"These funds acknowledge that when a tragedy happens, the pain ripples throughout the community to many people in many different ways. Our role now is to be the community's steward of these resources so the pain we feel today leads to actions that prevent more pain and injustice in the future."


 

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