The officer who shot and killed Fulton resident Justine Maia Ruszczyk has declined to speak to the state bureau investigating the incident.
While Officer Mohamed Noor declined to testify at this time, Officer Matthew Harrity shared his account today with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Harrity said he and Noor responded to Ruszczyk’s 911 call of a possible assault and searched the alley for a suspect. Harrity said he was driving south through the alley between Washburn and Xerxes with the squad lights off, while Noor was in the passenger seat.
“As they reached West 51st Street, Officer Harrity indicated that he was startled by a loud sound near the squad,” states a news release. “Immediately afterward Ruszczyk approached the driver’s side window of the squad. Harrity indicated that Officer Noor discharged his weapon, striking Ruszczyk through the open driver’s side window.”
Ruszczyk was pronounced dead at the scene, and the BCA said she died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Officials recovered a cell phone and no weapons from the scene.
Investigators are looking for an 18- to 25-year-old-man who was biking on 51st Street immediately before the shooting and stopped to watch as officers attempted to provide medical assistance. Any witnesses can contact the BCA at 651-793-7000.
Noor has retained his own legal representation, and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said it cannot compel his testimony.
“Officer Noor’s attorney did not provide clarification on when, if ever, an interview would be possible,” states a BCA news release.
His attorney did not immediately respond for comment.
Mayor Betsy Hodges said at a press conference Tuesday that she wishes Noor would have made a statement.
Arradondo said he respects Noor’s right to retain representation and casts no judgment on the matter. He said officers can choose whether or not to conduct the BCA interview.
The BCA’s investigation pertains to the facts of the incident. The BCA will turn over its findings to the Hennepin County Attorney when the investigation is complete.
Separately, the Minneapolis Police Department has opened a standard Internal Affairs review of the officer’s use of force. The Office of Police Conduct Review also plans to begin an inquiry when the BCA investigation is complete.
The Minneapolis Police Department has deployed body cameras for the past eight months, but neither officer’s body camera recorded the shooting. Investigators have not recovered any video or audio of the shooting.
An MPD quality assurance commander will complete a review of the body camera program focused on how often officers activate the cameras. Chief Janeé Harteau plans to update the camera policy as well, according to Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo.
“Our front line supervisors have been tasked with ensuring officers increase the activation of their body cameras,” he said.
Ward 13 Council Member Linea Palmisano plans to propose new body camera policies and review body camera compliance. She also plans to use her authority as chair of the Audit Committee to task the Audit Department with evaluating how the cameras are being used.
“We are also having lots of discussions about how we can start to make some bigger systemic changes to how we police in this city,” she said.
At the recent press conference, Sydney Morning Herald foreign correspondent Paul McGeough asked about the city’s culture of policing.
“…Why have you got a law and order culture in this city where two rookie youngsters are out in a patrol car on their own at night with guns that they don’t seem to know how to use?” he asked.
Hodges said in response that the police officers are fully trained.
Noor has worked as an officer for 21 months, and Harrity has served for one year, according to the BCA.
Arradondo said a recent change to the police department’s policy on use of force embeds the “sanctity of life” for both officers and community members.
“…At the end of the day, everyone should go home,” he said.