March 26, 2019 09:42 AM
As John Ruszczyk replays the events surrounding the death of his daughter - who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in July 2017 - he asks himself one question: Why was then-officer Mohamed Noor allowed to wear the badge and carry a gun?
Fifteen months later, the grieving father of Justine Ruszczyk is demanding the police department answer that question now that Noor’s personnel and training records have been made public in a court filing from Hennepin County prosecutors.
Noor’s departmental records shed light on an officer whose documented behavior raised concerns back to when he was a recruit, say prosecutors who have charged him with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Noor’s trial is scheduled for April.
"There were red flags throughout his employment history with the police," Ruszczyk said in an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS anchor Megan Newquist from his home in Sydney, Australia. "There were several incidents that have come to light and you go back to, 'How did he [Noor] get there in the first place?'"
In his first interview with an American journalist, Ruszczyk spoke to Newquist about Justine’s character, what brought his daughter from Australia to Minneapolis and the investigation into the officer-involved shooting that drew worldwide attention.
A Timeline of Events in the Case
NOOR’S DEPARTMENTAL RECORDS
Noor’s internal department records show that when he was first screened to be an officer in 2015, a psychiatrist reported him "disliking people and being around them." The psychiatrist further noted Noor may be "incompatible with public safety requirements ..."
But Noor’s attorneys say training officers did not ever find Noor to be unacceptable at a task and they believe the method of the psychological evaluation was racially biased.
"It gets worse when you learn she’s [Justine] been shot by a policeman, but to follow the path back," Ruszczyk said.
Prosecutors have also cited Noor’s judgment during a normal traffic stop that occurred two months before Justine was shot. At the time, Noor and another officer stopped a motorist in south Minneapolis. After reviewing squad car video, prosecutors said that when Noor approached the driver’s side of the car "the first thing he did was point his gun at the driver’s head."
Noor's attorneys dispute what the prosecutors say about his actions during the traffic stop. They've said that the video shows Noor's gun in a "low carry" position and that Noor was calm. They argue that Noor "determined the driver was not a threat and holstered his gun about 23 or 24 seconds after arriving at the scene."
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Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity responded to a 911 call on the night of July 15, 2017. Justine had called the emergency line after she heard what she believed to be a sexual assault in the alley behind her south Minneapolis home.
Moments after the officers cleared the call and were preparing to drive from the alley, the officers heard a thump against their squad and Noor reached across his partner, firing at Justine through the driver’s window, according to statements Harrity has provided investigators.
Noor has refused to speak with investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators.
Harrity told investigators he recalled Justine, unarmed and dressed in pajamas, saying, "I’m dying or I’m dead."
Prosecutors say that Justine did not present a danger to Noor.
"He made no effort to determine whether Ms. Ruszczyk was a threat, a perpetrator ... it was literally a shot in the dark at someone or something ... and an act of extreme recklessness," prosecutors wrote in a fact statement filed in court.
Referring to actions of the officers, Ruszczyk said, "They used deadly force in the wrong case."
SILENCE FROM WITHIN
Ruszczyk said that in the days immediately following the shooting, he was assured by BCA investigators that they would get to the truth of what happened. Looking back, he says he was wrong.
"It wasn’t different. They had to convene the grand jury to get the police to testify," he said. "Dozens, 30 to 40 officers. This was to get to the truth because they wouldn’t cooperate. You have an obligation to the community and the people you represent to do the right thing. You cannot hide behind some false brotherhood. And say, 'He's one of us, and we need to guard him.'"
The two attorneys representing Noor did not respond to requests for comment. In a statement, City Attorney Susan Segal, speaking on behalf of the mayor’s office and the police department, issued a statement: "Mohamed Noor has been criminally charged and a trial date has been set. Consequently, we cannot comment on this matter at this time."
Janee Harteau, who was the police chief at the time of the shooting, did not respond for a comment.
Ruszczyk doesn’t know whether he will ever get the answers he’s seeking over the decision made to hire Noor into the department. His attorneys have filed a $50 million civil suit against the city and other public officials.
He hopes the suit will force accountability and transparency that he says is needed in order to bring reforms to the department – from strict body camera policies to training and conduct.
"I want this case to be discussed. Justine’s name in some book they study at law school ... and say this is the way we brought justice and fixed the police department in Minneapolis," he said.
Updated: March 26, 2019 09:42 AM
Created: October 28, 2018 09:09 PM
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