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Relatives want answers after Australian woman who called 911 killed by US officer

Reports say that Justine Damond had called to report a sexual assault when she was shot.

Justine Damond, of Sydney, Australia, who was fatally shot by police in Minneapolis.
Justine Damond, of Sydney, Australia, who was fatally shot by police in Minneapolis.
Image: Stephen Govel via AP

AUTHORITIES IN THE US state of Minnesota are investigating the shooting of an Australian woman, who was killed under mysterious circumstances after placing an emergency call.

Authorities have released no details about what led to the shooting of Justine Damond, a meditation teacher and bride-to-be who was killed late on Saturday by an officer who reportedly fired his weapon from the passenger seat of a squad car.

There were no known witnesses other than the two officers in the squad car. A newspaper report said Damond was shot while standing alongside the car in her pyjamas.

New audio has been released online of officers communicating over their radio. Calls for backup can be heard as well their attempts to perform CPR on the woman.

In one instance, an officer says: “Shots fired. We have one down.”

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office yesterday night said the woman died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Police Shooting Minneapolis Friends and strangers leave flowers at a makeshift memorial at the scene where Justine Damond was killed. Source: AP

She was identified in the report by her maiden name, Justine Ruszczyk. The Star Tribune reported that she was engaged to be married in August and was using her fiancé’s last name.

Her death was ruled a homicide.

Her fiancé, Don Damond, said the family has been given almost no additional information.

“We’ve lost the dearest of people, and we’re desperate for information,” he said.

Piecing together Justine’s last moments before the homicide would be a small comfort as we grieve this tragedy.

Damond’s family members in Australia also released a statement through Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, saying they “are trying to come to terms with this tragedy and to understand why this has happened”.

Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting. In a statement yesterday, the BCA said more information would be provided once the officers were interviewed.

The BCA also said no weapons were found at the scene.

Officers’ history

Local media identified the officer who fired his gun as Mohamed Noor, a Somali-American. A city newsletter said he joined the police department in March 2015.

ADDITION Police Shooting Minneapolis A memorial to Justine Damond. Source: Jeff Wheeler

His attorney, Tom Plunkett, released a statement saying Noor offered his condolences to the family “and keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers”.

“Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves, and he empathises with the loss others are experiencing,” the statement said.

Noor was sued earlier this year after an incident in which he and other officers took a woman to the hospital for an apparent mental health crisis.

The lawsuit claims Noor and the other officers violated the woman’s rights when they entered her home without permission and Noor grabbed her wrist and upper arm. Noor relaxed his grip when the woman said she had a previous shoulder injury, the lawsuit says.

KSTP-TV reported that city records show Noor had three complaints on file. The station did not provide details on the nature of the complaints, but said one was dismissed with no disciplinary action and the other two are pending.

Justine Damond

Neighbour Joan Hargrave called the killing “an execution.”

“This is a tragedy – that someone who’s asking for help would call the police and get shot by the police,” Hargrave said.

Police Chief Janee Harteau called the killing a “tragic death” and said she understands why the community has questions.

“I’ve asked for the investigation to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can,” Harteau said.

ADDITION Police Shooting Minneapolis Locals gather to mourn the death of Justine and demand answers as to why she died. Source: Jeff Wheeler via PA Images

The Fulton neighbourhood where the shooting happened is a mix of middle- and upper-middle-class homes about a half-mile from city lakes that are a popular destination for residents and tourists.

Damond’s death is the latest high-profile police shooting in the Twin Cities area in recent years. Last year, 32-year-old Philando Castile was killed by an officer during a traffic stop in a nearby suburb after he told the officer he was armed.

And in November 2015, a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Jamar Clark during a struggle in which the officer said Clark grabbed his partner’s weapon.

Damond’s business website indicates she relocated to Minneapolis and worked as a yoga instructor, meditation teacher and personal health and life coach.

Originally trained as a veterinarian, Damond indicated on the site that she was “most passionate about supporting individuals and organisations to discover the power and potential within their own brains and hearts”.

Read: Nine-year-old boy among 11 killed in Chicago shootings

Read: Pregnant woman loses baby after fatal shooting at gender reveal party

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