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Damond's Family: 'Unimaginable Suffering' Justine Experienced Must Be Compensated

March 26, 2019 09:33 AM

Speaking from a podium with photos of Justine Damond on stands next to him, attorney Robert Bennett summed up the Minneapolis woman's killing like this:

"Essentially, Justine saw something and said something just like the signs in the airport tell us to do and she got killed for doing so," Bennett said.

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RELATED: Lawsuit: Damond's Family Claims Former Minneapolis Police Officer, Partner 'Inexperienced'

Bennett announced the family had filed a $50 million civil lawsuit against the city, the police department, the officers who were involved, and the current and former police chiefs. He said the family is asking to be compensated for the "unimaginable suffering" Justine experienced from the time the bullet from former officer Mohammed Noor's gun hit her until the time she died.

"And a year later we don't know why that was," Bennett said. "We don't have any explanation so we are going to sue these people to find out."

Justine's father, John Ruszczyk, issued a written statement about the lawsuit and said in part, "The damages for the violation of Justine's most important civil right, the right to life, are immense… Our only real token is a verdict that is too large to ignore or forget."

The lawsuit alleges Noor violated Damond's constitutional right to life and that Noor and the officer he was patrolling with that night, Matthew Harrity, conspired to intentionally not activate their body-worn cameras. 

Bennett called both officers unfit for duty.

"If you get spooked like Harrity says without being able to articulate any reason for that, you're in the wrong job," Bennett said.

The lawsuit goes on to argue there are systemic failures within the police department. It questions the adequacy of the department's mental health screening process before officers are hired. It also names current Police Chief Medaria Arrandondo and former Chief Janae Harteau, accusing them of failing to discipline officers who didn't follow department policies and who refused to testify before the grand jury – calling that a "blue wall of silence."

"I think it's clear the blue wall of silence exists in Minneapolis, has existed in Minneapolis, and exists today, right now," he said.

Bennet said he feels the case is strong.

"I'm perfectly comfortable asking for $50 million plus punitive damages and if they gave it to me I wouldn't be surprised," Bennett said.

RELATED: Family of Justine Damond to File Lawsuit Over Death

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS contacted the city and police department asking for comment on the legal filing.

Minneapolis city attorney Susan Segal responded with a statement:

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 through trial without interference.

KSTP's call and message for former Police Chief Janae Harteau was not returned.

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Matt Belanger

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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