Damond’s father ‘deeply concerned’ about BCA investigation

John Ruszczyk’s comments follow county attorney’s criticism of the agency

Friends and neighbors of Justine Damond (Ruszczyk) organized a memorial at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in August 2017. File photo

The father of Justine Damond said Wednesday he is “deeply concerned” about the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigation into her death this summer.

John Ruszczyk spoke publicly at home in Australia one week after the release of a video showing Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman criticizing BCA investigators. Confronted at a holiday party by activists who wanted to know why Freeman hadn’t yet announced his decision on whether or not to charge the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Damond in July, the county attorney said BCA investigators “haven’t done their job” and that he’s still lacking critical evidence.

Freeman later apologized for remarks he described as “ill-advised,” but the attorney representing Damond’s family, Bob Bennett, noted that Freeman did not walk back his complaints about the thoroughness of the investigation.

“At least he was forthright about the failures of the BCA to do an adequate investigation in the first place, which doesn’t surprise me,” Bennett said. “I’ve looked at a lot of BCA investigations and found them, at least in officer involved shootings, to be inadequate and really starting at the wrong point.”

Damond, a native of Australia who was living in Minneapolis, was shot after calling 911 to report a suspected assault near the 51st & Washburn home she shared with her fiancé, Don Damond. Officer Mohamed Noor, who responded to the call with his partner, reportedly reached over his partner to fire at Damond through the window of a police vehicle.

(Still legally known as Justine Ruszczky, she had been using the name Damond both personally and professionally at the time of her death.)

John Ruszczyk said he spoke with the BCA shortly after his daughter’s death and was assured “they would give the county attorney all the necessary information to make a reasoned decision on whether or not to charge Justine’s shooter with a crime.”

“They looked me in the eye and said they were committed to getting to the truth of the event,” he continued. “Now I hear that the Hennepin County attorney, to whom the BCA handed its investigative results, says that the investigation has not been done to the prosecutor’s satisfaction or even to the expected levels of accuracy and thoroughness.”

Ruszczyk said family members are now concerned that the BCA investigation “was not done properly and with the greatest integrity or sense of completeness.”

“We are apprehensive that perhaps the BCA has not fulfilled its promise,” he said.

Freeman said he plans to make a statement about the status of the investigation next week. He had previously said he planned to make a decision on whether or not to charge Noor by the end of the year.

Bennett said the family “wants the right things done” and is not concerned about meeting a deadline.

Ruszczyk said he wanted the county attorney’s office to conduct a “rigorous investigation” and fill in any gaps in the BCA’s work.

“We will wait patiently while this occurs, but insist that this investigation be done and done right,” he said.