In more ways than one, race continues to serve as a factor in police-involved shootings. On April 30, 2019, Somali American police officer Mohamed Noor was found guilty in the death of Justine Rusczcyk, a White woman who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her house. Noor became the first cop in Minneapolis history to be convicted of murder.
Days after Noor was convicted of killing Ruszczyk, it was announced that Ruszczyk’s family would receive a substantial settlement.
According to MPR News, Ruszczyk’s family settled for $20 million with the city of Minneapolis. In contrast, the family of Philando Castile only received a $3 million settlement.
The $20 million payout that the family of Justine Damond received is the largest settlement of police abuse in the history of Minneapolis,” Minneapolis attorney Nekima Levy-Pounds told this publication. “The fact that Justine was White and affluent and the officer who shot her was a Black, Somali, Muslim man played a role in the officer being convicted of murder and also in this unprecedented settlement. Although we support Justine’s family, we are deeply disgusted and disappointed with city officials in Minneapolis who do not hold Black victims of police violence with anywhere near the regard Justine received. Many Black victims do not receive justice and their families do not receive a cent from the City of Minneapolis. This is a tale of two cities; one Black, one White, both separate and unequal.”
The significant settlement gap is intriguing considering Castile’s murder appeared to be more vicious than Ruszczyk’s.
On July 6, 2016, Castile, a 32-year-old Black man, was pulled over while driving in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Castille was shot and killed by police officer Jeronimo Yanez in a shooting that was recorded by Castile’s wife on Facebook Live. Although Castile told Yanez that he had a permit to carry a weapon, Yanez shot Castile while he was reaching for his driver’s license and registration. Yanez was acquitted of all charges in Castile’s death.
Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Levy-Pounds said she believes race was a factor in Noor’s conviction.
“I don’t think we can take out race because, in this instance, it was very similar to other officers who have shot and killed people. Except those officers were White, and there was zero accountability for their actions,” she said. “They were not even fired after they killed people. And, in this instance, this man was fired.”