Thursday, July 27, 2017

Reports that Minnesota cops shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk after she slapped their patrol car make Carol and me feel lucky to be alive here in Missouri

Justine Ruszczyk
Carol and I are saying extra prayers of thanks -- for being alive -- after reports this week that cops in Minneapolis shot and killed a woman after . . . she slapped their patrol car, apparently trying to get their attention.

The shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk on July 15 was a stunner, even with the dozens of high-profile cases of police brutality around the country in the past three years or so. Ruszczyk, who was from Australia and had been using the name Justine Damond in anticipation of her upcoming marriage, was a victim of police stupidity and brutality.

Such cases never seem to end. Just yesterday, we had reports that cops in Mississippi shot and killed a man while trying to serve a warrant . . . at the wrong house.

In the Ruszczyk case, she called 911 twice to report what sounded like an assault in an alley behind her home. After seeing a patrol car arrive, Ruszczyk went outside in her pajamas to speak with the cops. Officer Mohammed Noor, sitting in the passenger seat, apparently was startled by a noise and shot across his partner in the driver's seat -- striking and killing Ruszczyk, who was standing beside the vehicle.

According to a search warrant discovered this week, the noise came when Ruszczyk slapped the car, apparently trying to get the officers' attention. How can a woman in pajamas, who had alerted cops to a possible crime, come across as such a threat that she winds up dead?

That is one of many questions that has been racing through our minds as we think back to Sept. 9, 2015, and a potentially deadly encounter with cops. We had been targeted for an unlawful eviction that day -- even though a judge had issued only an interlocutory (non-final) order, and we had filed a notice of appeal that, by law, put a stay on the eviction. Roughly a week before the eviction, cops claimed (via my lawyer/brother, David Shuler) that I had called 911 threatening to shoot anyone who tried to evict us. Cops now admit I never made such a call, and court documents present zero evidence that I made such a threat. Even if I had, any forceful action to protect our property from unlawful intrusion would have been proper under Missouri's Castle Doctrine Law.

The 911 call attributed to me, which we now know never happened, caused a virtual SWAT team of cops to arrive at our duplex apartment -- bursting through the front door, with assault weapons and pistols flying in all directions. I was sitting in a chair, with my hands folded in my lap, as Officer Scott Harrison pointed an assault rifle at my cranium.

Carol and I knew at the time we were just a flick of a trigger finger away from being killed. But that understanding has been driven home further by the Justine Ruszczyk story.

Here's the scary part: We've seen, from firsthand experience, that a lot of cops are not very bright -- but we entrust them with all kinds of lethal weaponry. In the Ruszczyk case, a reasonable person can understand that it's jarring to be sitting in a vehicle and hear a loud, unfamiliar noise. But how can your first reaction be to fire a weapon in the general direction of the sound -- across your partner's body, for criminey's sake? The officers knew someone had reported a possible crime, and they should have known it was a woman. Didn't it make sense that the woman would be trying to contact them at the scene? Didn't it make sense to be on the lookout for her, so maybe she wouldn't have to slap your vehicle to get your attention.  This is from a St. Paul Pioneer-Press story:

A woman approached the back of a Minneapolis police car and “slapped” it shortly before an Australian woman was shot and killed by an officer, according to a search warrant filed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The search warrant obtained by Minnesota Public Radio doesn’t specifically say that the woman was Justine Damond, but: “Upon police arrival, a female ‘slaps’ the back of the patrol squad … After that, it is unknown to BCA agents what exactly happened, but the female became deceased in the alley.”

Gotta love that cold, clinical language. The female became deceased in the alley? No kidding. I wonder how that happened. Notice there is no mention that she "became deceased" after a cop fired a gun in her direction. You can almost sense the warrant applicant trying to phrase this so that Ruszczyk herself could be blamed, at least a little bit, for "becoming deceased."

We've come across similar nonsense in records about our eviction. Consider this narrative from Officer Jeremy Lynn, describing what he saw as he burst into our home:

Once inside I observed a white male wearing a gray T-shirt and green shorts, sitting in a chair in the living room. The chair was approximately 15 feet from the front door. I also observed that the male was sitting very still and deliberate. His posture was very stoic as he started at me, emotionless. It was also very obvious that he was sitting in such a manner to make himself a threat.

Geez, the guy sounds disappointed that I didn't give him a reason to shoot me. He also makes every effort, in his last sentence, to place a supposed threat at my feet, even though officers now admit (and they had every reason to know then) I had directed no such threat toward them.

How much danger were Carol and I in that day? We've talked often of this very possible scenario: Baxter, our little boy kitty kat, was alive then and typically was prancing around somewhere near our feet. What if I had instinctively tried to reach for him, to protect him, as thugs were crashing into our home? What if he had been on my lap, and I tried to grab him as he jumped down? Would Carol and I be dead now because of such a sudden move?

Here is our policy: A lot of Americans (especially white ones) tend to view police favorably because they think cops offer protection against street thugs (usually viewed as someone with dark skin). Experience has taught us a couple of things:

(1) We will take our chances any day with a street thug over a stupid, heavily armed, and possibly corrupt cop. I've never had a street thug cause me harm. Cops have brutalized both Carol and me, inside and around our homes.

(2) Cops almost always take a sticky situation and make it worse. I've yet to see an instance where a cop has helped solve a problem. They seem much more likely to cause a problem -- or make one worse.

I'm guessing Justine Ruszczyk would have similar sentiments -- if she were able to share them with us now.


Anonymous said...

One of the most dumbfounding cases I've ever read about. Just sickening to think this could happen.

Anonymous said...

As a country, we obviously are hiring a lot of people as cops who have no business being cops.

Anonymous said...

Slapping the police car was not a smart move, but no way the officer should have responded with gunfire. If someone is that skittish, he shouldn't be a cop.

Anonymous said...

The statement from the Missouri cop is downright creepy.

Anonymous said...

I'm honestly surprised they haven't tried the civil asset forfeiture con against you yet.

Anonymous said...

I think it should be "Carol and me".

legalschnauzer said...

@1:32 --

It's funny you raise that issue because I originally had it "Carol and me." In fact, that's how the headline appears on my Facebook feed. But I gave it more thought and decided it should be "Carol and I." I usually handle that grammatical issue fairly well, but something about this construction made it hard for me to decide. I do think "Carol and I" is correct, but I'm open to thoughts from others. I might need to follow one of my old grammatical maxims: When in doubt rewrite the whole headline/sentence, etc.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 9:49 that the Jeremy Lynn comment is creepy. I wonder if they expected you to be some wild-eye, "anti-government" freak, and thought you would react in a way that would give them reason to shoot you. In fact, this makes me think the plan was to shoot you and Carol both, but that failed, when they opened the door and saw you were a normal-looking guy, calmly sitting in a chair. Even for a bad cop, it's hard to shoot a person in cold blood when he is sitting there, minding his own business, inside his own home, staring you in the face.

legalschnauzer said...

@5:03 --

Thanks for an intriguing comment. I wish I could say you are over the top, but I'm not sure you are. Your scenario might help explain the frustration cops showed as they broke Carol's arm. Perhaps they expected us to be dead at that point and weren't expecting to deal with removal of our personal items from the apartment. Maybe they were just thinking our corpses would need to be removed, and someone else would handle that.

Snickers said...

In Officer Jeremy Lynn's comment about how still you were, he failed to mention that you had an assault rifle trained on your cranimum at the time. I suspect most people would be rather still under such circumstances.

legalschnauzer said...

Snickers --

Hah! You make a great point. Lynn conveniently leaves out all the weapons flying around. In fact, I think all of the cop narratives make no mention of all the weaponry they pointed at us that day -- all for an eviction that was based on an interlocutory (non-final) order and was stayed by our notice of appeal.

But you are right -- one tends to be rather still when an assault rifle is pointed at his head.

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere, I think in an Australian newspaper, that Minnesota cops did a search/raid on this woman's house, after she had been shot and killed. What in the hell was the purpose of that? I think she lived there with her fiance, who I believe was out of town at the time, so isn't that a major violation of his rights?

legalschnauzer said...

@6:12 --

This might be a major reason the police chief was forced to step down. No way such a search should have happened. It smells like cops were looking for something they could use to pin blame on the victim. Cops are good at that kind of crap. They aren't good for much else, but they are good for that.

Anonymous said...

What are you, 70? Sorry to tell you but your days of looking like a "threat" ended long ago. Sounds like the cop was trying to come up with words to describe your look of constant misery from the state of your life. Either that or you had just shit your pants and you were trying to play it cool.

legalschnauzer said...

@3:04 --

I'm well short of 70, which you should know if you are capable of reading the blog. I wasn't trying to look like a threat, which you would know if you could read the post. A suggestion: Try developing some reading comprehension skills before attempting to decipher this blog -- or any other blog, for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Reports [that Minnesota cops shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk after she slapped their patrol car] make [Carol and] I [feel lucky to be alive here in Missouri].

Reports = subject
that Minnesota cops shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk after she slapped their patrol car = modifying clause
make = verb
Carol and I = objects ("Carol" can be both subject and object; "I" can only be a subjective pronoun and "me" can only be an objective pronoun, so your reader @July 27, 2017 at 1:32 PM was correct)
feel lucky to be alive here in Missouri. = modifying clause.

If you had made "Carol and I" the subject, instead of the object, you would have been correct:
Carol and I feel lucky to be alive here in Missouri after reports that Minnesota cops shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk when she slapped their patrol car.

legalschnauzer said...

@6:51 --

Thank you. Not only did you get it right, you helped me understand where I went wrong. I've used a little rule on this grammatical problem for years -- I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about -- but I screwed it up this time. Moral of the story: Rules are only effective if you apply them correctly, and I didn't in this case. Again, thanks; wish I could send you an award or something. Going to fix the headline.

Anonymous said...

Always a pleasure, LS@7:03!
IMHO, the Minneapolis situation, so far, seems to be a tragic convergence of rookie police reactions, and inexplicable behavior on the part of Ms. Ruszczyk. Much more information is needed to come to any kind of judgement/conclusion about it.
Your situation, on the other hand, continues to provide ongoing evidence of a deliberate (and potentially fatal) travesty perpetrated by a crew of venal scoundrels that are unqualified to be serving as law enforcement officers.

Anonymous said...

It's "Carol and me" - the best way to decide is to leave out the additional subject, in this case Carol.

You wouldn't say "Reports make I feel lucky;" "Reports make Carol and me feel lucky" is correct.

S C said...

Is it true all the dashboard cameras, etc were shut off?

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, according to published reports I've seen, the relevant cams were not operating. I'm not sure if it was a dash cam or body cams. I think it was body cams that were turned off. Not sure if the vehicle had a dash cam.

S C said...

It would be interesting for the investigators to check the vehicle's GPS. Where were the cops when they first got notified of the 911 call?