MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – The father of an Australian woman who was fatally shot by a former Minneapolis police officer last summer filed a $50 million lawsuit Monday claiming he and his partner covered up the circumstances of the shooting by not activating their body cameras.
John Ruszczyk, father of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, sued Mohamed Noor and his former partner Matthew Harrity in Minneapolis federal court, along with the city, its former police chief Janee Harteau and Medaria Arradondo, the new chief of police.
According to the 45-page lawsuit signed by lead attorney Robert Bennett with Gaskins Bennett, Noor and Harrity did not use their body cameras in accordance with the Minneapolis Police Department’s policies.
Ruszczyk – who seeks at least $50 million in damages – alleges specific evidence that would incriminate Noor, expose false statements by Harrity and prove the circumstances of Damond’s death is now unattainable.
Damond was shot July 15, 2017, just 13 minutes after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her house. She was dressed in pajamas when she died from a gunshot wound to the stomach.
At the time of her death, Damond, 40, worked as a life coach and was engaged to be married. She had been living in the U.S. for more than two years.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement last July that Noor and Harrity had the lights on their squad car turned off while searching for a suspect, when Harrity “indicated that he was startled by a loud sound.”
Damond approached the driver’s side of the police car and Harrity said Noor fired his gun through the open window, according to the bureau. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Noor, 32, was charged with second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder for her death. His lawyers, including St. Paul attorney Thomas Plunkett, have said Noor will plead not guilty.
Ruszczyk claims Minneapolis police officers, including Noor and Harrity, often purposely made the “evidence-collection features” of their body-worn cameras (BWCs) ineffective.
For example, an officer can leave the camera in “off” mode or “buffering” mode instead of switching it to “event” mode while responding to a call.
Ruszczyk claims Noor and Harrity engaged in this “conscious behavior” on the night of Damond’s death.
He says the defendant officers “failed to properly activate” their BWCs “at several mandatory points in their call response.”
“Noor and Harrity’s conscious decisions, made in concert, on July 15, 2017 deprived the investigators, the charging authority, and the state criminal and federal case jurors of the digital audio-video evidence the officers were mandated to obtain,” the lawsuit states.
According to the complaint, Minneapolis spent more than $8 million to provide its officers with BWCs.
Neither Noor’s attorney, Plunkett, nor Ruszczyk’s attorney, Bennett, immediately responded Monday to requests for comment on the lawsuit.