Decision to charge in Damond case expected this year

Hennepin County Attorney says investigators have yet to turn over findings

Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said he expects to make a decision before the end of the year on whether or not to charge the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed a woman in the Fulton neighborhood July 15.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting of Justine Damond by Officer Mohamed Noor and has not yet turned its findings over to the county attorney’s office. According to the BCA, Noor responded with another officer to a 911 call placed by Damond, who was reporting a possible assault, and shot her through the squad car window shortly after arriving on the scene near 51st & Washburn.

Usually between four and six months elapse between the time of an officer-involved shooting and the decision on whether or not to charge the officer with a crime, Freeman wrote in the Aug. 28 edition of his office newsletter.

“We have received some emails and phone calls from members of the community demanding that we charge the officer immediately and ascribing all kind of nefarious reasons as to why we haven’t done so,” Freeman wrote in the newsletter. “The truth is, we are following the same procedure we have with the three previous officer-involved shootings.”

That means the case won’t be handed over to a grand jury, a practice Freeman halted following the November 2015 shooting death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police. Instead, Freeman and several of his office’s senior prosecutors plan to review the BCA investigation and make a charging decision.

As Freeman described it in his newsletter, the change “allowed for more transparency and accountability regarding the decision” to charge or not.

“I fully expect a decision in this case before the end of 2017,” Freeman wrote.

Damond, a native of Australia, was also known as Justine Ruszczyk but had started using the last name of her Minneapolis fiancé, Don Damond. The two were to be married in Hawaii this month.