State authorities have completed their investigation into the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond on July 15 in a Minneapolis alley by a police officer and turned the case over to the Hennepin County attorney’s office for consideration of charges.
The handing off of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s (BCA) findings was announced Tuesday morning.
“As it has throughout this investigation, the BCA will continue to work with the county attorney as needed to provide any additional information” to prosecutors, the state Department of Public Safety said in a statement.
In a statement issued moments after the transfer of the case was announced, the county attorney’s office released a statement of its own, saying, “Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and several senior prosecutors will now carefully review the case file to determine what, if any, charges might be brought.”
The statement said that neither Freeman nor anyone associated with his office will have more to say about the case for the time being.
Damond, 40, a native of Australia who was engaged to be married, called police late at night about noises behind her Fulton neighborhood home on Washburn Avenue S. that she suspected might be a sexual assault.
One of the two responding officers, Mohamed Noor, fired at her as she approached the squad car he was riding in. Noor has been on paid leave since the shooting.
Damond’s relatives have indicated that her family is seeking changes to body camera policy and officer training, as well as swift discipline for Noor. Noor and his partner, officer Matthew Harrity, did not have their body cameras turned on during the shooting.
“The BCA has concluded its investigation, but the wait continues for Justine’s family and me,” Don Damond, Justine Damond’s fiancé, said in a statement Tuesday.
“We want to see justice for Justine, and hope that the Hennepin County Attorney will act swiftly to review the findings and determine charges.”
Freeman, speaking at a forum of neighborhood residents on Sunday, said that the shooting didn’t have to happen.
“I’m saddened by the death of this fine young woman,” Freeman said to the gathering of about 50 residents. “It didn’t have to happen. It shouldn’t have happened.”
He has said that he will decide whether charges will be filed, again breaking with the longtime tradition of having that task handled by a grand jury. He said Sunday he expects to decide by the end of the year.
With the investigation taking another step forward, Zach Damond, Justine’s stepson, spoke for several minutes at a public forum about how the Hennepin County sheriff’s new body camera policy should be improved.
The draft policy, which currently will be in effect only for members of the SWAT team, gives deputies some discretion when they are required to activate the cameras. Damond said he couldn’t understand why deputies would even want to turn off their cameras.
“I would want it on 24/7,” he said. “It works both ways, as far as evidence goes. It may help out the deputy.”
He said he’s still living with the shock and mystery of what happened to Justine that night. “I will never know what happened,” he said. “I don’t hate all cops, but why are we even having this discussion?”
Damond told the commissioners they have to do what they think is right. While the board was required by state law to hold the public forum, it has little input over the policy.
The room went quiet as he stood crying at the podium for several seconds. Board Chairwoman Jan Callison offered her condolences.
He then sat down in a chair and continued to sob.
Staff writer Hannah Covington contributed to this report.