Justine Damond's Family Sue Police For $67m Over Wrongful Death
"Justine died in her pajamas trying to help someone else. We cannot not let her death be in vain".
The family of Australian woman Justine Damond Ruszczyk, shot and killed by Minneapolis police a year ago, are suing the city and two officers over her "violent, unnecessary, and unconstitutional death".
Ruszczyk was killed in the alley behind her home on July 15, 2017. She had called police late at night after reporting hearing a woman's voice and being "not sure if she's having sex or being raped". After police arrived, officer Matthew Harrity claimed he was "startled by a loud sound near the squad [car]" and that Ruszczyk had "approached the driver’s side window of the squad."
"Harrity indicated that officer [Mohamed] Noor discharged his weapon, striking [Ruszczyk] through the open driver’s side window," the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement after its initial investigation.
Ruszczyk's family held a vigil in Sydney last week to mark a year since her death. On Tuesday, her father John announced he had instructed attorneys to file a complaint against Noor, Harrity and the city of Minneapolis, in an attempt to "make the City of Minneapolis and its Police Department accountable for their actions".
The family are seeking $67 million (US$50m) in the suit.
"The damages for the violation of Justine’s most important civil right, the right to life, are immense," John said in a statement.
"They include the unimaginable suffering she endured from the time the bullet struck her until she died, the loss of her upcoming marriage to her soulmate, Don, the loss of parenthood - something she dearly wanted - the loss of work and play, the loss of special relationships with her friends and family, the loss of economic opportunity, and the loss of the satisfaction of helping others find their way and their peace in this world; something for which she had a unique gift."
John said the family would seek "an award of punitive damages in whatever amount a Federal Jury thinks is proper to send an unmistakable message to these officers and the City of Minneapolis and its Police Department that such conduct is wrong, and will no longer be tolerated."
"We want the Minneapolis police culture to be reformed in such a way and to the extent necessary to stop such senseless acts from happening again and again," he said.
"As the Complaint shows, the police department’s problems are systemic. Our only real tool is a verdict that is too large to ignore or forget."
"If Justine’s family and her friends around the world must forever suffer her loss and endure life in the future without her, it is fitting that important changes should follow that make people safer from and better served by the Minneapolis Police Department."
Noor, who is no longer a police officer, also faces criminal charges that could send him to jail if convicted. He has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
"Justine would have wanted these changes because they are just and because people would benefit from the tragedy of her death," John said.
"Justine died in her pajamas trying to help someone else. We cannot not let her death be in vain."