MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau resigned Friday as criticism mounted over a deadly encounter in which a city officer shot and killed a woman who called officers to investigate a disturbance near her residence.
Mayor Betsy Hodges said she asked Harteau to resign because “I’ve lost confidence in the chief’s ability to lead us further — and from the many conversations I’ve had with people around our city, especially this week, it is clear that she has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis as well.”
Harteau said the killing of Justin Ruszczyk led her to step down.
“Last Saturday’s tragedy, as well as some other recent incidents, have caused me to engage in deep reflection,” she said in her own statement. “I’ve decided I am willing to step aside to let a fresh set of leadership eyes see what more can be done for the MPD to be the very best it can be.”
The resignation heartened protesters who came out to demonstrate against police violence Friday in Minneapolis.
“I think it’s a really good sign,” Laren Rice said. “I think you need to start with those people at the top, and when you have this many citizens involved, that’s how it trickles down. It starts at the top, and the citizens just keep pushing for change.”
Ruszczyk, 40, was an Australian native who’d moved to Minnesota in 2014 and was active in the community as a yoga and meditation instructor. Her wedding was scheduled for next month.
She had called 911 to report a possible assault near her home. Minneapolis police officers Mohamed Noor and Matthew Harrity arrived about 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
Police said a squad car entered an alley and Ruszczyk, 40, approached the driver’s side to talk with the officers.
The officer in the passenger seat, Noor, shot and killed the unarmed Ruszczyk, police said.
No charges have been filed, but the officers have been placed on administrative leave. Noor had been with the force for two years and was his precinct’s first Somali-American officer.
Police have not offered a complete explanation for the killing and the department has come in for heavy criticism because the two officers wore body cameras but had not turned them on.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is leading the investigation and her death is being investigated as a police shooting.
In her first comments on the case Thursday, Harteau said the shooting “should not have happened. … On our squad cars, you will find the words: ‘To protect with courage and serve with compassion.’ This did not happen.”
Another fatal police shooting happened while Harteau was chief and led to numerous street protests.
Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old African-American, was killed during a scuffle with white officers in front of an apartment building during the early hours of November 15, 2015.
The officers were not charged with a crime. A police internal investigation determined they did not violate department policies and will not face discipline.
Harteau joined the Minneapolis Police Department as an officer in 1987, at age 22. She became chief in January 2013 and was the department’s first woman chief.
Hodges said she will nominate current Assistant Chief Medaria “Rondo” Arradondo as police chief.