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Minneapolis reaches $20M settlement over Ruszczyk killing

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Attorney Bob Bennett speaks about the $20 million agreement
Attorney Bob Bennett speaks about the $20 million agreement between the family of Justine Ruszczyk and city of Minneapolis to settle a lawsuit stemming from her 2017 killing by Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.
Christine Nguyen | MPR News

Updated 3:15 p.m. | Posted 12:42 p.m.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said Friday the city reached a $20 million agreement with the family of Justine Ruszczyk to settle a lawsuit stemming from her 2017 killing by Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor. It's the largest misconduct payout in state history.

The civil case settlement includes $18 million to the Ruszczyk family and $2 million the family has agreed to donate to the Minneapolis Foundation's Fund for Safe Communities, a program designed to prevent gun violence in the city.

"This is not a victory for anyone, but rather a way for our city to move forward," Frey said as he announced the settlement. City leaders, he added are "united that such a tragedy should never occur in our city" again.

The settlement is "an unmistakable message to change the Minneapolis police department in ways that will help all communities," Ruszczyk family attorney Robert Bennett said later, noting "positive changes" in Minneapolis since the shooting, including a new mayor and police chief.

Watch: Robert Bennett, Ruszczyk family attorney, responds to settlement

Now off the force, Noor was convicted Tuesday on murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Ruszczyk, who was also known as Justine Damond. She had called police the night of July 15, 2017 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her Minneapolis home.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announces the Ruszczyk family settlement
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announces at a press conference Friday, May 3, that the city reached a $20 million agreement with the family of Justine Ruszczyk to settle a civil lawsuit, as members of City council stand behind him.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

Noor, one of the responding officers, shot and killed her as she approached the police squad vehicle where Noor and his partner, officer Matthew Harrity, sat. Noor shot once from the passenger side, through the driver's side window, hitting Ruszczyk.

Noor's defense attorneys argued throughout the monthlong trial that he'd fired to protect his terrified partner after hearing a thump on the squad in the alley and then seeing a figure by the driver's side window raising an arm.

Prosecutors countered that the thump was a story made up later and that Ruszczyk, approaching the squad in her pajamas that night, could not have been considered a threat.

Frey cited Noor's conviction on third-degree murder and the conclusion that he faced no threat before using deadly force as reasons for the settlement.

John Ruszczyk, Justine Ruszczyk's father
John Ruszczyk, Justine Ruszczyk's father, speaks after a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor guilty in her killing Tuesday, April 30. The city of Minneapolis announced Friday it would settle a civil case with the Ruszczyk family for $20 million.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender said the city understands no amount of money can ease the pain of Ruszczyk's loved ones.

  "It is our continued commitment to work together with our community to demand and support change to policing," she said. "It was a priority for the City Council and mayor that part of this settlement include funds to be invested to address broader issues of police violence in our communities."

Before the Ruszczyk settlement, the largest known payout in Minnesota was $4.5 million made in 2007 by the city of Minneapolis to Duy Ngo. 

Ngo was a Minneapolis police officer shot by another officer while on duty. Ngo was seriously injured and had to leave the department. He took his own life in 2010.

In 2013, Minneapolis paid $3,075,000 to the family of David Smith, who died after being restrained by two police officers.