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SYDNEY (AP) — The family of an Australian woman fatally shot by a police officer in the United States in July demanded a more rigorous probe Thursday after a Minnesota prosecutor cast doubts on the initial investigation.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman last week said investigators "haven't done their job" in relation to the shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond by Officer Mohamed Noor.
Reading a statement to media in Sydney, Damond's father John Ruszczyk said the woman's family was deeply concerned "about the possibility that the initial investigation was not done properly, and with the greatest integrity or sense of completeness."
Ruszczyk said he and the rest of Damond's family were demanding Freeman and his colleagues continue to pursue a rigorous investigation and examination of evidence surrounding the shooting.
"At the least, Mr. Freeman's comments cast doubt on the description of how Justine's death occurred as it was initially put out by the BCA and the attorney for the officer driving the squad car," Ruszczyk said, referring to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Freeman said last week he did not have enough evidence to charge Noor, who shot Damond in the alley behind her home after she had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault. As she approached the squad car, Noor fired from the passenger seat, across his partner and through the driver's window.
Damond's death sparked protests and led to a police department shake-up, including the resignation of Chief Janee Harteau.
Freeman was captured on video, which he says he did not know was being recorded, expressing his frustration about the case during a Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation holiday reception. He said it wasn't his fault there was not enough evidence to charge Noor, and that investigators "haven't done their job." Noor has declined to speak with investigators.
Freeman didn't name the investigators or their agency, but the BCA is leading the investigation.
Flanked by three other family members, and pausing occasionally to compose himself, Ruszczyk said Thursday that after the shooting, authorities in Minneapolis had "looked me in the eye and said they were committed to getting to the truth of the event".
"Now I hear that the Hennepin county attorney, to whom the BCA handed its investigative results, says that the investigation has not been done to the prosecutor's satisfaction, or even to the expected levels of accuracy and thoroughness," Ruszczyk said.
"What are we to think? We are deeply concerned about the possibility that the initial investigation was not done properly, and with the greatest integrity or sense of completeness. We are apprehensive that perhaps the BCA has not fulfilled its promise," he said.
Ruszczyk cited a quote by American writer James Baldwin: "It is certain in any case that ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have."
Ruszczyk said this was particularly true "when it comes to evaluating the use of deadly force by those sworn to protect us."
"Ignorance cannot prevail here," he said. "We implore Mr. Freeman and the prosecutor's office to continue to pursue a rigorous investigation and examination of evidence of the events leading to Justine's death."
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