May 01, 2019 12:07 AM
The father of Justine Ruszczyk Damond praised the verdict reached Tuesday by jurors in the case of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.
But John Ruszczyk also had harsh words for some members of the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Jurors found Noor guilty of murder in the third degree and manslaughter in the second degree in connection to Damond's fatal shooting in July 2017.
He was found not guilty of murder in the second degree. Sentencing is scheduled for June 7.
Damond had called 911 to report a possible crime occurring outside her South Minneapolis home when she was shot by Noor while approaching the vehicle with Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity inside.
Noor had pleaded not guilty on all charges, claiming self-defense.
"We are satisfied with the outcome," John Ruszczyk said. "The jury's decision reflects the community's commitment to three important pillars of a civil society: The rule of law, the respect for the sanctity of life and the obligation of the police force to serve and protect.
"We believe this verdict strengthens those pillars. We hope this will be a catalyst for future change."
But Ruszczyk had harsh words for police and members of the BCA, who investigated the shooting.
"We believe this verdict was reached despite the active resistance of a number of Minneapolis police officers - including the head of their union - and (despite) either the active resistance or gross incompetence of the BCA," he said. "Particularly at the beginning of this investigation."
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman also said the BCA made mistakes at the beginning of the investigation, but that they worked to correct them.
"People make mistakes," Freeman said. "We work with the Minneapolis Police Department and the BCA all the time. There have been several officer-involved shootings since then. And they've both done an exemplary job.
"We hope the problems we've had in the past are over, and they continue to do the good job they've done recently."
In a text message, police union president Lt. Bob Kroll said the family has a right to react in whatever manner they choose.
"They have a right to grieve and place blame where they see fit," Kroll texted.
The union also issued a statement, expressing sympathy to the family.
"From the very onset this was an extremely unfortunate situation for all involved," it read. "The tragic loss of life; an officer convicted of murder charges while on duty. Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Our thoughts are with former Officer Noor.
"The Federation respects the legal process and the findings of the jury."
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo too issued a statement after the verdict was announced.
"I've just been made aware that the jurors presiding over the former MPD Officer Noor trial have reached a verdict and their decision is guilty on the charge of Murder in the Third Degree and guilty of Manslaughter in the Second Degree. I respect the verdict rendered.
"I want to extend my sincere apologies to the family and friends of Justine Damond Ruszcyzk. This was indeed a sad and tragic incident that has affected family, friends, neighbors, the City of Minneapolis and people around the world, most significantly in her home country of Australia.
"I want to acknowledge the important role and work of the criminal justice agencies who were involved in this case including the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.
"As Chief, I will ensure that the MPD learns from this case and we will be in spaces to listen, learn and do all we can to help our communities in healing. Moving forward, I remain committed to all communities the MPD has taken an oath to serve by continuing to build trust by focusing on our procedural justice efforts. Through collaboration and partnerships with all of our stakeholders, I am hopeful that we will strengthen our community wellness and safety."
Her fiancé Don Damond criticized the Minneapolis Police Department for not embodying its message.
“To protect with courage and to serve with compassion, where were these values that night,” he said. “She called them because she needed them to protect with courage and serve with compassion, but that night there was a tragic lapse of care and complete disregard for the sanctity of life.”
He called on Arradondo and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to make changes within the department.
But Damond thanked the prosecution for its care, diligence and integrity.
“I also want to thank everyone who has held us in their hearts and prayers, we have not walked this path alone,” he said.
He described his fiancé as compassionate.
“Justine lived to teach us about love, she lived to teach us about our own human potential, she taught us to live joyful, she taught us to laugh,” he said. “In her life, she committed to transform humanity and her legacy is continuing that work today.”
Meanwhile, a memorial for Justine remained in her neighborhood Tuesday. And several people stopped by to drop off new flowers.
A note from Justine's family read: "We learn that love is not bulletproof and we must protect the ones we love. Nothing is ever lost."
Updated: May 01, 2019 12:07 AM
Created: April 30, 2019 06:29 PM
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