Decision on charges in Justine Ruszczyk's death won't come in 2017

The decision over whether to charge a Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer for shooting an unarmed woman last July ...

Posted: Dec 29, 2017 12:51 PM
Updated: Dec 29, 2017 12:51 PM

The decision over whether to charge a Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer for shooting an unarmed woman last July won't come until 2018, according to the county attorney.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Thursday that the investigation into the death of Justine Ruszczyk will continue into next year, saying "more information and evidence" are needed.

The woman was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer in July

The attorney's comments come weeks after he suggested the investigation was poorly executed

Ruszczyk, a 40-year-old Australian woman, was shot and killed on July 15 by Officer Mohamed Noor after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in an alley near her home. Soon after Noor and his partner arrived at the scene, Ruszczyk was dead. She was weeks from being married.

"Our goal was to complete the review and make a decision on whether or not to bring charges by the end of the year," Freeman said in an statement. "We are getting more information and evidence and additional investigation must be completed."

"As I have mentioned before," Freeman added, "the investigation and review of the case will not be rushed. It is more important to get it right than to get it done quickly."

The statement went on to say that Freeman spoke with Ruszczyk's family by phone on Thursday to explain why the decision was postponed. "He also informed them that there is no timetable for when the decision will be made," the statement said.

Freeman came under fire earlier this month after a video emerged of him discussing the case in public with members of an activist group. Asked why he'd not yet brought charges against Noor, Freeman said, "I've got to have the evidence and I don't have it yet. And let me just say, it's not my fault."

Instead, Freeman lay the blame at the feet of investigators with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which handled the investigation at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Freeman later apologized for the comments.

The BCA, which conducts the majority of officer involved shooting investigations in Minnesota, said in a statement Thursday that it "presented its case file to the Hennepin County Attorney on September 12, and continues to work with that office regarding this ongoing investigation."

The Bureau added that "the collaboration between prosecutors and investigators as a case file is reviewed under the statutes is a typical part of the review process," but "state law prohibits (the BCA) from providing additional details because it is an active investigation."

It's not entirely clear what happened between the moment the officers arrived and the moment Ruszczyk died, though a search warrant obtained by Minnesota Public Radio and the Minneapolis Star Tribune in August said that a woman -- presumed to be Ruszczyk -- slapped the back of the police car.

In a statement Thursday night, Noor's attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said he was "concerned" by Freeman's statement and his handling of the investigation because of the video that came to light earlier this month.

"I am concerned by the statement's suggestion that Mr. Freeman has taken the investigation in-house," Plunkett's statement said. "Objectivity and Integrity are the keys to 'get it right' recent developments do give us pause on this point."

Noor, who declined to be interviewed by investigators in the case, was placed on administrate leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

In a separate statement, Ruszczyk's family said, "We support Mr. Freeman's decision to take additional time to ensure the investigation is rigorous and complete. We want justice and appreciate the support from all those who want the same. We ask for the public's patience to allow the investigation to continue."

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