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Freeman: Probe of Ruszczyk shooting by Mpls. cop continues into 2018

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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 4:45 p.m. | Posted 3 p.m.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Thursday he has not yet decided whether he'll file charges against Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk, that he's continuing to seek evidence and that the investigation will continue into next year.    

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

  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.  

It's not clear why Noor shot. A preliminary report by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Harrity reported being startled by a sound coming from near their squad as they drove through an alley with their car's lights off. Right after, Ruszczyk reportedly came near the squad's driver's side window.

After the shooting, then-Police Chief Janee Harteau criticized Noor's actions, saying they ran against department training and that "Justine didn't have to die."

  Noor remains on paid administrative leave. He has declined to talk to investigators about what happened.

Freeman had been expected to decide whether or not to charge Noor by the end of the year. The BCA turned over its findings to Freeman in September.

  On Thursday, however, Freeman said in a statement that the probe would not be done by Dec. 31.    

  "Our goal was to complete the review and make a decision on whether or not to bring charges by the end of the year. We are getting more information and evidence and additional investigation must be completed," he said. "As I have mentioned before, 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."    

  Freeman said he'd spoken with the woman's family Thursday, expressed his sympathies and said there is "no timetable for when the decision will be made."

Earlier in the month, Freeman told a group of union members that he did not have enough evidence to decide yet whether to file charges against Noor and blamed BCA investigators for not doing their jobs.

He apologized once the comments became public.

Ruszczyk's relatives in Australia, however, expressed concern about Freeman's comments and the rigor of the investigation into her death.

On Thursday, though, the family said in a statement it supported Freeman's decision "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."

Tom Plunkett, Noor's attorney, said Freeman's statement concerned him. "Objectivity and integrity are the keys to 'get it right,'" he said, adding, "recent developments do give us pause on this point."