Freeman: Sorry I ripped BCA over Ruszczyk shooting probe

A photograph of Justine Ruszczyk surrounded with colored roses
A photograph of Justine Ruszczyk surrounded with colored roses and other arrangements sits on a stage at Lake Harriet for her memorial.
Maria Cardona | MPR News File

Updated 4:43 p.m. | Posted 3:43 p.m.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman on Monday apologized for publicly blaming the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for not doing its job investigating the shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk by a Minneapolis police officer.

Freeman told a group of union members Wednesday that he does not have enough evidence to decide yet whether he'll file charges against Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, and he blamed "investigators." While he did not specifically name the BCA in the remarks recorded by the union members, Freeman directed his apology Monday to the BCA.

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He said in a statement that he apologized personally to Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman, who oversees the BCA. He also said that he would share more information next week on the question of whether he intends to charge Noor in the shooting.

Noor fatally shot Ruszczyk from the passenger seat of his squad car through the driver's side window on July 15 after he and his partner, officer Matthew Harrity, responded to her 911 call.

Ruszczyk, known professionally as Justine Damond, had called police to report that she thought she'd heard a woman yell for help outside her home in Minneapolis' Fulton neighborhood, telling the 911 operator she was worried someone was being attacked.

The BCA took over the case following the shooting. On Sept. 12, the BCA said it completed its investigation into the shooting and turned it over to Freeman to consider whether to charge Noor with a crime.

On Thursday, the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar posted the prosecutor's conversation with a group of union members during the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation holiday reception Wednesday night on the activist group's Facebook page.

One of the activists asked Freeman why he hadn't yet announced charges in the case against Noor.

"I've got to have the evidence and I don't have it yet. And let me just say, it's not my fault," Freeman said in the video. "So if it isn't my fault, who didn't do their jobs? ... Investigators, and they don't work for me. And they haven't done their job."

In the video, Freeman tells union members: "I'm not going to make it worse by just doing a knee-jerk charge and say let the jury decide. No, no. I have to know what happened before I can charge. And that's when I'm doing my job. And thanks for having some patience.

"Trust me. Nobody wants it done for Christmas more than me. That's ... that's the big present I'd like to see under the Christmas tree."

According to the Minneapolis Police Department, Noor remains on paid administrative leave.

"If you look at this, here's a nice lady who hears something bad outside, she calls the cops, they don't come, she calls again, they drive by in her alley, they don't stop to talk with her, and she comes out in her jammies, and she's killed by a cop. Sounds easy doesn't it? But, it's not just," Freeman said on the video Wednesday, adding, "Can I prove the cop shot her? I could've done that the first day. That's not how it works."

Freeman was contrite on Monday. He said he felt like he was responding to constituents at the holiday gathering.

"However, in doing so, I was wrong to discuss both the agency's work and what discussions we are having internally at the county attorney's office," he said, adding that he did not know the conversation was being recorded. "Nonetheless, my comments, under any circumstances, were ill advised and I am sorry." Freeman said he and his staff have been working hard, but "while some clamor for swift justice, only careful, detailed work and careful analysis brings us real justice."

Noor's lawyer, Thomas Plunkett noted Freeman's apology, adding, "At this time I am just trying to do everything I can to make sure that Officer Noor is treated fairly in this process."

Listen to Freeman's comments on the Noor case

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