Freeman: No evidence yet to make decision in Justine Damond case

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told a group of activists Wednesday night that he doesn’t have enough evidence to make a charging decision in the fatal officer-involved shooting of Justine Damond

The activist group, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar confronted Freeman at the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation holiday party about why he has not decided whether to prosecute Minneapolis Police Office Mohamed Noor. They recorded a video of the conversation and posted it to their Facebook page

“I’ve got to have the evidence and I don’t have it yet,” Freeman told the activists. “Let me just say, it’s not my fault. So if it’s not my fault, who didn’t do their job? It’s the investigators. They don’t work for me. They haven’t done their job.” 

Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar activist Sam Sanchez says they approached Freeman because he needs to be held accountable.

"There’s accountability for the work we do, there’s accountability for the work he does too," said Sanchez.

On July 15, Noor shot Damond, who also went by Justine Ruszcyk, in the stomach in the alley behind her south Minneapolis home after she called 911 to report a possible assault. 

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension conducted the investigation into the officer-involved shooting. The case was submitted to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for review in September. 

“I have to prove beyond reasonable doubt the moment he shot the gun [Noor] feared for his life and he used force because he thought he was going to be killed,” Freeman said. “But, he won’t answer my questions and he doesn’t have to. We all have Fifth Amendment rights and I respect that. So I can’t talk to her because she’s gone and the other cop just gave us s***.” 

Earlier this fall, the Fox 9 Investigators learned the attorney’s office was asking its own investigators, five sworn Hennepin County sheriff’s detectives, to join BCA investigators in seeking voluntary interviews with the officers who responded to the scene. The responding officers had submitted detailed written reports and some had activated their body cameras at the scene, but they were not initially interviewed by BCA agents. 

It is not unusual for prosecutors to seek additional investigation. In the police killings of both Jamar Clark and Philando Castile, prosecutors asked the BCA for additional information. 

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office issued a statement on Thursday in response to the video: “We are working diligently on the case to complete the investigation as soon as possible. Beyond that, we cannot comment at this time."

The attorney’s office had previously said they anticipated a charging decision by the end of the year.

Tom Plunkett, the attorney representing Officer Noor, said he is "very concerned" about Freeman's comments, adding "investigators gather evidence, they don’t create it."

Statement from Officer Noor's attorney

"The loss of Justine Ruszczyk Damond is a tragedy. Officer Noor personally extends his continued condolences to her friends and family for their loss. I am very concerned about what Mr. Freeman had to say about Officer Mohamed Noor. No lawyer wants their client placed under a Christmas tree as a present to a vocal segment of the community. That said this case is about an officer that followed procedure and training. This lead to the death of a very fine person which is a horrible tragedy, but not a crime. Investigators gather evidence, they don’t create it. That is their job. I am concerned by any supplemental investigation - especially if it is directly overseen and influenced by the County Attorney."