The Shooting Of Justine Ruszczyk: How Mindless Tribalism Makes Justice Impossible

The shooter and the shot.

Former police officer Mohamed Noor  was sentenced last week to spend 12 and a half years in a Minnesota prison for shooting Justine Ruszczyk, an unarmed woman he killed while on patrol in 2017. I don’t see how anyone could read the facts of the case and not conclude that Noor was guilty of negligent homicide. I don’t see how anyone could rationally complain that his sentence was excessive, either.

 Ruszczyk, who was white—unfortunately this fact is relevant—and  soon to be married, called 911 twice to report what she thought was a sexual assault going on in the alley  behind her Minneapolis home. Officer Noor and his partner responded  to investigate.  Ruszczyk  came out to the darkened alley to meet them, presumably to explain what she heard or saw,  and was soon dead of a single shot, fired from the  open patrol car window by Noor.  At the trial,  Noor said he feared for his life when he  saw Ruszczyk approaching his cruiser and fired. “She could have had a weapon,” he said .

The reported crime, sexual assault, the officers were investigating  did not involve a weapon. If Noor’srationale was enough to justify shooting Janet Ruszczyk, presumably an officer could justify shooting anyone, at any time.

Prosecutors argued that Noor acted unreasonably by  firing at unknown  figure out his window without shouting a warning,  and that it amounted to third-degree murder.  Well, of course it did. He was convicted by a jury in April . Twelve years for recklessly killing an unarmed woman who was trying to be a responsible citizen is not an unreasonable sentence, and is within the sentencing guidelines for the crime. 

So, you may ask, what’s the problem? The problem is that Noor is a Somali immigrant, and his victim was white.  Protesters from the area’s Somali community gathered in the courthouse lobby last week, claiming that a white officer would have been treated differently. “Wrong Complexion For Blue Protection,” one sign read. Noor’s religion—he is Muslim-obviously  influenced his treatment by the court system, they said. The logic, to the extent that there is any, is that white officers in Minnesota and other parts of the country have escaped imprisonment for shooting unarmed blacks, so Noor should walk free after gunning down Janet Ruszczyk for no disernible reason whatsoever. In this blunt and illogical equating of dissimilar tragedies, all that matters is the end results and the colors of the participants.

Was Ms. Ruszczyk 300 pounds, resisting a lawful arrest, and charging an officer who was calling on her to stop? No. Then the Mike Brown shooting is irrelevant, Or, to use a shooting in Minnesota where an officer was recently acquitted, the case involving the death of Philandro Castile, did  Ms. Ruszczyk tell an officer that she was carrying a gun, and then make a movement that the officer said caused him to believe he was about to be shot? No. If the comparison is to the horrible shooting of a 12-year-old black child  in Cleveland, also out a patrol car window without warning, it is still unwarranted. There had been a report of a man with a gun, and the boy, large enough to be an adult, was holding a realistic-looking toy. I might have voted to convict the officers in that case, but it doesn’t matter: Noor’s actions had none of those mitigating factors. Nor were the cases in Pennsylvania and Tulsa, Cincinnati or South Carolina sufficiently like the Ruszczyk  shooting to justify calling Noor’s sentence evidence of a double standard.

This is tribalism and opportunistic political power manipulation through bias and  group identification. As such, it is un-American and corrosive to our society and rule of law. Islam also has a version of the Golden Rule: is it that difficult to think the Minneapolis episode through and think, “If someone in my community was shot the way this woman was, I would certainly want the police officer convicted and punished”?

That Noor, as the first Somali-American officer in his Minneapolis police precinct,  had been a source of pride in the city’s large Somali refugee population—the mayor attended a welcome ceremony for him–shouldn’t matter at all. The protests are redolent of the Los Angeles African-American population rallying around O.J. Simpson.

We have to find a way to stop using presumed-prejudice as an excuse to attack the justice system. We have to be able to educate the public regarding how and why  facts matter in trying cases, and criminal trialsare not just black vs. white power struggles.

We have to build a multi-cultural consensus regarding fairness and standards of justice, and to push back against cynical. emotional and ignorant protests, instead of enabling them with a lazy and non-committal, “I can certainly understand why they feel that way.”

We have to do all this, but as long as there is political currency in doing the opposite. the use of tribalism to undermine the law will continue, and worsen.

31 thoughts on “The Shooting Of Justine Ruszczyk: How Mindless Tribalism Makes Justice Impossible

  1. When I hear an accusation of race- or sexism, my immediate response is to ignore everything else the speaker says. I know these things can actually happen, but in the face of a vicious, constant false narrative the only healthy response is to treat everything that even sounds like an instance of that narrative like irrelevant nonsense and the speaker like a liar who has to provide a disproportionate amount of non-emotional corroborating evidence within the short span of time it takes me to recognize the pattern and write him off completely. As I’m fond of saying, if everyone in the world were like me it would be a much better place.

    It sounds harsh, but the goal of these accusations is to be plentiful and give inattentive mental juveniles the impression of systemic unfairness for the sake of creating social unrest, not to be true. Treating them as potentially true empowers them. Uncritically equal treatment is unfair treatment, because different things should be treated differently.

    • Your immediate response is not only usually appropriate, once the relevant facts are known, but what needs to happen, every time, to eventually extinguish this insane behavior.

      Literally every single time, like a reflex, to eventually serve as a deterrent to it. As it stands, it’s rewarded by people who give it any traction. You want to be fair, and give the accuser the benefit of a doubt, at least long enough to weigh the merit of the claim. You just can’t do this, though; not with this stuff.
      As soon as you hear anything like “He was pulled over because he is (black/hispanic/muslim/trans/whatever), not because he (ran 7 red lights/was texting/has a dead hooker in his back seat), the immediate, boilerplate response should be “Oh, I can see that you’re full of shit. We’re done here”, like a rolled-up newspaper to the nose.

    • There is an article in the NYTs this morning that could illustrate your point: “Her Evangelical Megachurch Was Her World. Then Her Daughter Said She Was Molested by a Minister.”

      It is terribly complex and difficult.

      The gist of the article is that Protestant churches have ‘distanced themselves’ from the sexual abuse crisis of the Catholic Church, that they also have their significant problems. Other sources I have just investigated indicate that this does seem to be the case.

      When I read the lede, and then the article, I reacted in just the way you did: my first through was: What is the angle of the article and how does it fit into a ‘general attack’ on those things the Times has determined are its enemies. My first response is a form of intellectual defensiveness, the sense that I need to be wary of where I am being led.

      The article, and the Times itself, requires a sort of depth-analysis, an exegesis really, in order to get to the bottom of what it is up to since it veered away from journalism into social activism. It is not merely journalistic reporting, but rather the engineering of perspective with certain ends in view. What are those end in specific terms?

      But there is an added layer of confusing complexity, and this is that it is certainly true that sexual abuse and sexual misconduct go on in the churches as it does everywhere. No more and no less I have read than in any organization. The article though takes a stance of complete and unquestioned solidarity with the victim of this abuse, and the reader of the article is asked, I guess one would say, to start from that initial point. That is my impression.

      But looking more closely into the issue, the girl who was abused, according to her account, came to her knowledge of the abuse 6 years later than it was said to have happened and when the memory was recovered in therapy. The accused church put out this message:

      “Earlier this year, the minor came to a place where it was possible to verbalize the memory of what happened for the first time through ongoing therapy. (Cedar Hill Police) Detective (Michael) Hernandez has been investigating the case since that time,” Chandler said. “It took courage and strength for the child and the family to share this information, and we want to support them in any way possible.”

      A recovered memory? In a therapeutic context? I thought it was well understood that such were not to be trusted?

      The lawyer for the abused girl and her family — Boz Tchividjian — has been involved in bringing to light the sexual abuse crisis in the evangelical churches for quite some time and his involvement is sincere and genuine from what I have read.

      The article therefore appears within a very complex ‘context’ but the article does not, and perhaps cannot, take that larger context into consideration.

      So, here is the exegesis: 1) abuse is real, of that there is no doubt. 2) yet blended in with a genuine need to confront the abuse are an array of other motivations which are not stated. 3) perhaps these are conscious, perhaps unconscious, but these ‘other motivations’ can be discovered, though it takes a special analytical effort. 4) the overall tone of the article — the overall intent I would suggest — is ‘anti-Christian’. Its function is to undermine confidence. When one reads the NYTs comments below the article it seems that the readers reveal their anger at Christian moralism and, often, describe their bad experiences. The article then becomes a ‘rehearsal of grievance’. 5) the overall effect of *this sort of article* is to expose, and possibly to exploit, a general movement to undermine both Christianity and Christian ethics. That is at least one fair suggestion and supposition. But this does not change that sexual abuse happens and is real. 6) thus the entire issue is murky and complex, with layers both visible and invisible, with unprocessed emotionalism that derives from abuse and abusive situations, but also from a desire to confront or to Christian norms and to undermine belief and confidence.

      Taking some steps back into the metapolitical: more evidence of general social crisis and confusion in a social and cultural landscape showing all the signs of breakdown and dissolution: on-going and advancing critical issues within Occidental culture that have been operating for hundreds of years. The question I ask is: What ‘process’ or ‘purpose’ does the NYTs serve in the social crisis? That is, as it seems to be showing itself as an advocate not for strict and proper journalism, but what I see as Maoist propagandistic activism and deliberate social transformation along specific lines.

      • It does fascinate, like a city on fire. One wonders if the Times is conscious of its role at the most basic level or if the daughters of illicit tribal collective euphoria have blinded them to their biases. A spark could have been set by malignant forces long ago, creating a blaze that burned out of control. It’s hard to think, from their flaccid faces and wide, drug-addict-like eyes, that the journalists are anything more than useful idiots. If the goal was to burn down the whole city anyway, conscious actors could be kept to a minimum. Libido dominandi, right? Turn the enemy himself into your invasion force. Any pleasure can be elevated to an immoderate end in itself. Once they all are, the man’s ruled by his passions and appetites alone – rendered a mere animal in all but name, almost effectively becoming a horse with human features.

        Horses are easily herded with carrots and sticks, but imagine if you could also get them to kick less-compliant horses. The feat of animal husbandry would revolutionize the industry.

        This leaves me wondering, are the conscious actors still alive, or did their monsters outlive them and multiply? Is this a war, an epidemic, or a city on fire? A city on fire during an epidemic that was the result of a past war? Are we all just horses kicking each other in a field over our crafty, dead master’s body?

        • Here, I’ll give it a shot . .

          The *short answer* is that everything depends on how one interprets reality and existence.

          Many of my views, and some of your views it seems, are not even conceivable to an entire class and faction. They do not think in those terms, and those terms do not enter into their considerations.

          They have a strong sense — I am not sure if it is an *idea* really or just a sort of sense — of what *progress* is and what progress requires.

          And I feel confident in saying that they would regard any ideation that is different and distinct from their Vision of Progress . . . as being regressive.

          I don’t want to sound too dramatic and make a mistake of perception, but progress for them is in eliminating the sort of thinking that we engage in. That is why ‘social engineering’ and also ‘education’ are of concern to them.

          But the problem is even further compounded by the fact that they are not necessarily wrong, or completely wrong I should say, when they condemn the failures of the religious organizations (for one example) that they set themselves up in opposition to.

          If for example we take E Michael Jones’ essentially (and essentialist) Catholic-Christian arguments as being ‘true’, it throws us into a territory of having to define and present a coherent counter-description of ‘progress’ and sane civic life. Therefore, it revolves back again into metaphysical and hermeneutic questions that turn in issues of value and meaning.

          The essence of the oppositions of the present, it seem to me, hinge in metaphysical questions of value and meaning.

          [Disclaimer for following pessimistic comment]:

          It has seemed to me possibly necessary to accept withdrawal from the field entirely. In the sense of The Benedict Option. Only because in such an obvious downward cycle the misunderstanding, based in a specific misapprehension and misinterpretation (of the primary metaphysical issues) shows no signs of getting better. It seems to get worse every day.

          • Well, there’s always Poland. Too bad that language is unintelligible.

            I think there’s something going on though. One of the obscure blogs I monitor had a link to a YouTube video by one Steve Cullen. He’s an Irish political commentator who’d largely focused on anti-EU political commentary. This particular recent video had him quoting, of all people and in all spans of time, E Michael Jones. The thrust of his message was that civilizations require high, unitive, religious ideals. This is not the sort of topic he brought up in his previous videos.

            It’s an anecdote, and a boring one, but it badly and concisely captures something I’ve been noticing. It seems like things are converging. Ideas I haven’t been able to convince people of through rigorous, nagging debate are just occurring to them. I wonder if the self-evident can be kept from people indefinitely.

            I mean that seriously: I actually do wonder if the self-evident can be kept from people indefinitely, but that’s a marked improvement. Things are still thready though, I should stop putting off learning Polish.

              • Doesn’t that depend on your definition of ‘obscure?’ (and what the definition of the word ‘is…’ wait, not helpful here…)

                Obscure: not discovered or known about; uncertain

                Many people might think the Designated Hitter is ‘obscure’ if taken across the entire population of Earth.

                We reach the audience we reach, and can only strive to widen our impact, if that is our goal.

                Jack, you have a great impact on your audience, and that audience is far greater than you know.

              • I might not be able to gauge absolute obscurity anymore, but I can definitely tell you that a blog about ethics written by a legal ethics professional is less obscure than any of the several blogs about religious/political matters written by science-fiction authors.

                Consider: I’ve scoured the internet for thought provoking content, and you’ve satisfied my eclectic tases. Maybe EA is a fine brandy only a few can afford.

  2. If you want people to stop being tribal about these things, the government has to stop being tribal about these things.

    He was asked to be a police officer so they could have a Somali on the force. The fact that he was Somali was more important than any suitability for police work.

    After he shot a woman in a nightgown, shooting across his partner who was talking to the woman, he was allowed to refuse to cooperate with the department’s investigation. I’m sorry, since when do police officers get to refuse to answer questions about an on-the-job shooting?

    This tribalism starts from day 1 in school and continues until the day we die. Until we get rid of the apartheid-like race-based rights and privileges in this country, we can’t expect anything else.

    • I’m sorry, since when do police officers get to refuse to answer questions about an on-the-job shooting?

      Well the courts have ruled that officers can’t be compelled to talk unless criminal immunity is granted. Otherwise they are unable to retain their 5th amendment rights.

      The double standard I don’t like is the kid glove treatment even during a screwup like this case. Fully justified civilian shooters are treated far worse. Cops should be treated the same. Jail unless they raise bail.

      • OK, but they can’t be fired? I mean, if an organization brings someone in to ask them how the money from their department disappeared and they won’t cooperate with the investigation, they get fired. If you refuse to talk about how you shot an unarmed woman in a nightgown who was talking to your partner, why aren’t you immediately fired?

    • In and of itself … diversity for the sake of diversity in any form except that of a focus group (whose opinions are worthless anyway) … is detrimental to any organization.

  3. You know…. These people are self-defeatingly stupid.

    So, there are several kinds of sentencing discrepancies, men are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, more likely to serve time and more likely to serve a longer sentence than women, the same line of discrepancies exist, to a *smaller* extent between black people and white people.

    And so I look at these discrepancies, and I ask myself… “Where does this shake out?” Are too many men and black people being arrested, convicted and sentenced, or are not enough women and white people? Because it could go either way… For most of these crimes, the underlying act is, in fact, illegal, so I lean towards that women and white people tend to be undercharged, not that black people and men are particularly hard done by, but I could be convinced either way, and at least I’m consistent.

    This…. This is just bullshit. When a white cop shoots a black person, facts be damned, it is per se racism, the cops need to be fired, tried, convicted and thrown in jail for the rest of their lives, white people need to self-flagellate for a month afterwards in repentance, and should start talking about reparations, or something. Slogans need to be made! “Shopping while black!” “Hands up, don’t shoot!”, Do I have that right? And when a black cop shoots a white woman, facts be damned, it is racist to arrest him, charge him, find him guilty, and sentence him within guidelines? Do I have that right too?

    Because damned if that doesn’t sound like they haven’t rubbed a neuron together past: “White bad, black good.”

    • Indeed.

      Many of the spokeholes and leaders pushing this narrative are also calling for “common sense” “sensible” gun laws, as if they are pretending that these Klansmen with badges would magically transform into freedom riders whenever they enforce “common sense”, “sensible” gun legislation.

      As my longtime Usenet ally, Chris Morton, wrote,

      As a Black man, here’s what I say to “woke” SJWs:

      1. The police are all violent, racist sociopaths.
      2. Only the police should have guns.

      Pick ONE.

    • “And so I look at these discrepancies, and I ask myself… “Where does this shake out?” Are too many men and black people being arrested, convicted and sentenced, or are not enough women and white people? Because it could go either way…”

      But in all this, you seem to be assuming that the per-capita rate at which these crimes are being committed is the same among all considered groups, and you’re more or less likely to be charged, depending on which group you belong to. I can’t imagine that that disparity is actually big enough to account for the differing rates of arrest, conviction, etc. It must be that there are large differences in the rate of criminality, unfortunately.

      • “But in all this, you seem to be assuming that the per-capita rate at which these crimes are being committed is the same among all considered groups”

        No…. It’s a little more exact than that, and there’s been all kinds of studies on this: If a cop pulls over a white kid with pot and a black kid with pot, he’s more likely to arrest the black kid, if both are arrested the black kid is more likely to be charged, if both are chaged, the black kid is more likely to be convicted, and if both are convicted, the black kid is more likely to face a harsher sentance, and if convicted, more likely to receive a harsher sentence than the white kid in the same situation. The exact same correlation exists between men and women: If a man and a woman commit an assault, the man is more likely to be arrested, if both are arrested, the man is more likely to be charged, if both are charged, the man is more likely to be convicted, and if both are convicted, the man is more likely to receive a harsher sentence. These scenarios are predicated on the idea that all perpetrators committed a crime, and exactly the same crime.

        The question in all of this is whether the judiciary is biased against black people and men, or in favor of white people and women? Which is the baseline that we want to gravitate towards? I tend to lean towards the idea that men and black people are the baseline: At the end of the day, they’ve committed the crimes we’re talking about, and the sentencing will be within guidelines, it’s much more likely that white people and women are beneficiaries of benevolent bias.

  4. I’m going to stick my neck out and say that “a multi-cultural consensus regarding fairness and standards of justice” is NOT what is needed. Quite the opposite, this is one area where the United States, in spite of all its flaws, is miles ahead of the competing cultures. I say this as an immigrant from Mexico, and it brings me no joy to say it, but only in Western countries there is culture of laws above men. Respect for the legal system must be one of the areas immigrants assimilate into, otherwise we will only recreate the failed institutions we’re moving away from.

    • I wasn’t clear. That’s what I meant by “a multi-cultural consensus regarding fairness and standards of justice.” I’m happy to have other cultural influences in the US, as long as there is agreement on the basics.

      • I thought so, just wanted to clarify because it reminded me of conflicted messages in corporate training at my old job. On one hand we’re told to follow ethics and compliance rules: no gifts, everything in contracts, etc. Then you take the cultural awareness training (this was targeted mostly at international sales people) and are immediately encouraged to attend off hours social meetings, take turns paying for rounds of drinks, and follow the local customs for closing of a sale. I once asked which set of recommendations took priority and never got a straight answer.

  5. Michael R. said:
    “He was asked to be a police officer so they could have a Somali on the force. The fact that he was Somali was more important than any suitability for police work.”

    Bingo! You have identified the root of the problem in this instance and a sad reality that police administrators and police academy directors deal with on a daily basis. To satisfy politically correct “diversity targets,” unsuitable candidates are admitted to the ranks of academy trainees, and inevitably some of them make it through training and into the ranks of serving police officers. Usually (hopefully) this group is further thinned in the “field training” portion of their employment, when they are actually working under close supervision of an experienced and proven officer. I wish I could say that all of them are weeded out before terrible consequences result, but obviously this is not the case. Certainly this phenomenon affects most every field of public employment, but seldom with as much potential for tragedy as in law enforcement.
    I saw this begin locally in the early 80s when a large municipal police agency near me began to actively recruit more African Americans to the agency. The target set by their city administration was that each academy class would meet or exceed the city demographic of 35% African American recruits. When there were not enough minority applicants that met admission standards, those standards were lowered. When minority applicants could not meet the performance standards of the academy, those standards were lowered as well. Supervisors in the field noted the decline in the quality of their academy graduates, this crossing demographic lines because of the lowering of performance standards across the board. The field training process remained the “last stand” for removing high-liability academy graduates before serious consequences resulted. It was (is) a shame to see so much time, money and effort expended on individuals who should never have been hired in the first place.
    The motto of professional public administration used to be “only the best shall serve.” Then it changed to “only the best shall serve – on a representative basis.” Now it too often seems to be “achieve politically correct demographic targets, regardless of the impact on quality of service.”

  6. We have to find a way to stop using presumed-prejudice as an excuse to attack the justice system. We have to be able to educate the public regarding how and why facts matter in trying cases, and criminal trialsare not just black vs. white power struggles.

    Sadly, I have concluded that the public no longer wants to be educated — they have made up their collective minds based on what “tribe” they identify with. The facts no longer matter. Whataboutism rules the day, and there is always some case close enough for the uneducated and determined tribe member to conclude whatever their tribe concludes.

    This is true for both sides — the determined police protector tribe doesn’t want to hear that it was a fake gun or the victim was a large child. They don’t care about the particulars as long as a threat is plausible by the broadest possible reading of the situation.

    The other side is just as invested in the idea that cops randomly shoot people because of their race or ethnic origin, except when it’s one of their tribe doing the shooting.

    This ship has sailed.

    • It’s a big, disgusting orgy of victimhood. I still remember a time when overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds was actually something you could be proud of.

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