(MINNEAPOLIS) — Minnesota state officials have identified the two Minneapolis Police Department officers involved in the fatal shooting of a 40-year-old Australian woman who called 911 on Saturday.
Police have launched an internal affairs review of the officers’ use of force.
Here’s what we know about the officers and the tragic death that took place over the weekend.
The responding officers
Matthew Harrity, who has been with the Minneapolis Police Department for a year, and Mohamed Noor, who has been with the department for 21 months, were the responding officers to the scene after Justine Maia Ruszczyk called 911 to report a possible assault near her home on Saturday, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced in a press release Tuesday night.
Harrity was driving the squad car, while Noor was in the passenger seat. As they neared Ruszczyk’s home, Harrity indicated that he was startled by a loud sound near the car, after which Ruszczyk immediately approached the driver’s side, according to the Minnesota DPS.
The deadly shooting
Noor then fired his weapon, striking Ruszczyk through the driver’s side window, which was open, the Minnesota DPS said. The officers provided medical assistance to Ruszczyk until EMS arrived, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Monday that Ruszczyk died of a single gunshot wound to her abdomen after she was shot.
Both officers have been placed on standard paid administrative leave pending the investigation. Ruszczyk’s death has been ruled a homicide.
Investigators are seeking to interview a white male about 18 to 25 years old who was seen riding a bicycle in the area immediately before the shooting, according to the Minnesota DPS.
Complaints on file
ABC affiliate KSTP in Saint Paul, Minnesota, reported that Noor had at least three prior complaints on file with the department, according to city data.
Two of the complaints are still open and the other has been dismissed without disciplinary action, according to the department’s Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR), which investigates allegations of police misconduct in the city. The office did not provide information on the nature of the complaints.
The victim, a bride-to-be
The Minneapolis Star Tribune said Ruszczyk was Australian and went by the name Justine Damond, using the last name of her fiancé, Don Damond.
“Her maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk,” the Star Tribune reported. “While the couple were not yet married, Justine referred to herself as Damond on her personal website.”
Ruszczyk’s website says the bride-to-be was a yoga instructor, a personal health and life coach and a “meditation teacher, embracing and teaching the neuro-scientific benefits of meditation.”
In a statement Tuesday, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges described Ruszczyk’s death as “tragic,” adding that she will continue to keep the lines of communication among officials and the public open due to interest in the case.
Harrity was interviewed by investigators Tuesday, but Noor declined to be interviewed, according to the Minnesota DPS. The Minnesota DPS Bureau of Criminal Apprehension cannot compel Noor to testify, and Noor’s attorney did not provide clarification on when, if ever, an interview will take place.
“We all want answers, we all want justice to be done … I wish he would make that statement,” Hodges said at press conference Tuesday night.
However, Noor’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, issued a statement describing Noor as a caring person with a family and said he “empathizes with the loss others are experiencing.“
“The current environment for police is difficult, but Officer Noor accepts this as part of his calling,” Plunkett said in the statement. “We would like to say more, and will in the future. At this time, however, there are several investigations ongoing and Officer Noor wants to respect the privacy to the family and asks the same in return during this difficult period.”
The officers’ body cameras were not turned on during the shooting, authorities said. The reason why police did not have their body cameras turned on is a “key question” for investigators, Hodges said on Good Morning America on Tuesday.
Minneapolis Police Department Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo said at Tuesday night’s press conference that the department is eight months out from fully rolling out body cameras across the force. He added that police department will soon review the body camera program.
Arradondo said the 911 call’s transcript will be released after Ruszczyk’s family has reviewed it.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau was out of the state for personal travel in the aftermath of the shooting but is cutting the trip short due to the incident, a spokesperson for the department told ABC News. She has been in constant contact with her team over the last three days, the spokesperson said.
In a statement, Harteau called the shooting “clearly a tragic death,” adding that she wants to “acknowledge the pain and frustration that family and community members have.”
“I also want to assure you that I understand why so many people have so many questions at this point,” she said. “I have many of the same questions and it is why we immediately asked for an external and independent investigation into the officer-involved shooting death. I’ve asked for the investigation to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can.”
On Tuesday night, Minneapolis City Council member Linea Palmisano expressed her dissatisfaction with the information released so far, describing it as “underwhelming.”
The victim’s family and friends speak out
While speaking to reporters in Minneapolis on Monday afternoon, Damond said his fiancée’s death is a “loss to everyone who knew her.”
“She touched so many people with her loving and generous heart. She was a teacher to so many and living a life of openness, love, and kindness,” he said. “Our lives are forever changed as a result of knowing her. She was so kind and so darn funny … It is difficult to fathom how to go forward without her in my life.”
Ruszczyk’s family has demanded more information about how she died, her fiancé said.
“We are desperate for information,” Damond told reporters. “Piecing together Justine’s last moments before the homicide would be a small comfort as we grieve this tragedy.”
Justine Ruszczyk’s father, John Ruszczyk, said Tuesday he’s struggling to understand why she died.
“We thought yesterday was our worst nightmare, but we awoke to the ugly truth and it hurt even more,” John Ruszczyk told reporters. “Justine was a beacon to all of us. We only ask that the light of justice shine down on the circumstances of her death.”
Family friend Julie Reed read a statement on behalf of Justine Ruszczyk’s family at a press conference in Australia.
“She was treasured and loved and we will really miss her,” Reed said.
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