(MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.) — Minnesota officials have identified and located a key witness to the officer-involved shooting that killed an Australian bride-to-be in Minneapolis.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension announced in a press release Friday night that its agents interviewed the witness, who was seen riding a bike in the area immediately before the shooting and stopped at the scene to watch as two Minneapolis police officers provided medical assistance to Justine Ruszczyk.
“The individual has been cooperative and provided an interview today,” the agency said in the Friday-night press release, without naming the individual.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is conducting the investigation into the incident at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department, is urging anyone who may have also witnessed the shooting to contact them at 651-793-7000.
Ruszczyk, a 40-year-old Australian native, called 911 on the night of July 15 to report what she believed was a sexual assault occurring near her home in Minneapolis’ Fulton neighborhood. Two officers from the Minneapolis Police Department, identified by authorities as Matthew Harrity and Mohamed Noor, responded to Ruszczyk’s call.
Harrity was driving the squad car, while Noor was in the passenger seat, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. 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, authorities said.
Noor then fired his weapon, striking Ruszczyk through the driver’s side window, which was open. The officers provided medical assistance to Ruszczyk until medics arrived, but she was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed that Ruszczyk died of a single gunshot wound to her abdomen.
Both officers have been placed on standard paid administrative leave pending the investigation. Ruszczyk’s death has been ruled a homicide.
The Minneapolis Police Department has launched an internal affairs review of the officers’ use of force.
Harrity’s attorney, Fred Bruno, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that it was “certainly reasonable” for the police officers to assume they could be the target of an ambush.
Noor has not provided any statements regarding the incident and has declined to be interviewed by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the agency said. Noor’s attorney has not provided an update on when, if ever, an interview would be possible. The agency said it cannot by law compel the officer to give a testimony.
On Friday, the city’s police chief, Janeé Harteau, resigned after Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said she “lost confidence in the chief’s ability to lead.” Hodges also announced she has nominated Assistant Chief Medaria “Rondo” Arradondo to lead the police department.
Ruszczyk, who went by her fiancé’s last name, Damond, was a yoga instructor, a personal health and life coach, and a “meditation teacher, embracing and teaching the neuro-scientific benefits of meditation,” according to her personal website.
Ruszczyk’s family — most of whom are located in her native country of Australia — said they have been in close touch with U.S. and Australian officials in reference to the ongoing investigation of her death.
“We are in constant contact with the Australian government and representatives of the U.S. government and Minnesota state authorities,” the family said in a statement Thursday. “We want to see the investigation come to a conclusion as soon as possible, so we have some resolution to the tragedy.”
Robert Bennett, the attorney representing both Ruszczyk’s fiancé and her family, told ABC News on Friday that they want “justice in its largest sense.”
“I think Justine is the last person you’d expect to be killed by police,” said Bennett, who represented the family of Philando Castile, a black man who was fatally shot by Minnesota police in July 2016.
“Of the cases that I’ve been involved in over the years, she doesn’t fit any of the patterns,” Bennett added. “Her life’s intersection with the police is totally bizarre.”
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