Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Monday he should decide by the end of the year whether to file charges against the Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond last month.
"We have received some e-mails and phone calls from members of the community demanding that we charge the officer immediately and ascribing all kinds of nefarious reasons as to why we haven't done so," he said in a statement. "The truth is, we are following the same procedure we have with the three previous officer-involved shootings."
Freeman added he does not know how long the investigation and review will take but that four to six months is normal in such cases.
"I fully expect a decision in this case before the end of 2017," he said.
In an interview, Freeman used the November 2015 fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis to illustrate a time line for similar shootings.
"Jamar Clark was shot on November 15, I got the case around February 15, four months later, and I declined to charge it six weeks later," he said. "Damond was killed less than two months ago, so that isn't half the time it took for Jamar Clark."
Freeman emphasized that he especially wants to take his time in high-profile cases.
He then pointed to the time taken by John Choi, his counterpart in Ramsey County, and how he handled the case against the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile in July 2016.
"Choi did his in the same time that I did Jamar Clark," Freeman said. That officer, charged with manslaughter and other counts, was acquitted by a jury.
The death of Damond, 40, a native of Australia who was engaged to be married, drew international attention after Officer Mohamed Noor shot and killed her on July 15. She had called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley behind her southwest Minneapolis home.
Looking ahead to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's investigation of the Damond shooting, Freeman said, "If they get it to us anytime in the month of September, I think that's an expedited process."
Freeman added that he would send it back to the BCA if the case isn't "done thoroughly."
After reading Freeman's statement, Jason Sole, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, said the case is taking too long.
Whenever the public is asked to be patient, "that never equals justice. ... He only put out the statement to appease the community. … But we are not pleased. Charge the officer," he said.
A longtime critic of police actions in Minneapolis said she understands the need for a thorough investigation but does not understand why a charging decision has yet to be made.
"We want a good investigation and a good prosecuting decision," said Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality.
"At the same time, they don't seem to take nearly this long in cases in which a community member is shooting someone," she said. "I think there's no question that the prosecutor's office and the BCA both attempt to give police officers as much benefit of the doubt as possible."
The practice in Hennepin County had been for a grand jury to decide whether officers would be charged in these types of cases.
Freeman broke with that precedent starting with Clark's death, and he continues to have his office decide whether to charge.
In Clark's case, the two officers involved were not prosecuted.
"We will follow that practice in this case," Freeman said in his statement. "So, once the file is turned over to our office, I will thoroughly review the investigation with several of our most senior prosecutors and make a decision."
Star Tribune staff writer Randy Furst contributed to this report.