Why did they kill her? Family demands answers over Australian shot by US cop

 abc.net.au  7/18/2017 1:55:19 AM 

Updated July 18, 2017 12:16:04

The fiance of an Australian woman who was fatally shot by a policeman in Minneapolis has demanded answers as the county medical officer ruled her death a homicide.

Officer Mohamed Noor shot Justine Damond, 40, more than once from the passenger seat of his police vehicle on Saturday night (local time).

Authorities have released no details about what led to the shooting of Ms Damond, whose fiance said she had called 911 to report what she believed was a sexual assault in an alley near her home.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office said Ms Damond's died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen and that her death had been ruled as a homicide.

Ms Damond's American fiance, Don Damond, said their "hearts are broken".

"We are utterly devastated by the loss of Justine," Mr Damond said.

"Sadly, her family and I have been provided with almost no additional information from law enforcement regarding what happened after police arrived.

"We've lost the dearest of people and we're desperate for information.

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

Police said officers were responding to a call about a possible assault in an alley behind her Minneapolis home late Saturday when Ms Damond was killed.

She was in her pyjamas when she approached Noor's police vehicle. There were no known witnesses other than the two officers in the squad car that showed up.

Mr Noor, the first Somali-American officer at Minneapolis' 5th Precinct, was in the passenger seat and fired multiple times across his partner at Ms Damond, Minneapolis TV station KSTP reported.

Ms Damond's stepson, Zach Damond, also called for more information.

"My mum is dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don't know," the 22-year-old said yesterday.

Almost two days after Ms Damond's death, police offered no public explanation and referred questions to the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which was investigating.

A statement from the BCA said more information would be provided once the officers were interviewed.

Ms Damond, formerly Justine Ruszczyk who took her fiance's surname before a planned wedding next month, moved to the US in 2015 and worked as a spiritual mentor in the Minneapolis area.

Family trying to understand why this happened

The shooting has shattered Ms Damond's family and friends both in Australia and the US and outraged residents of Minneapolis and adjoining St Paul, who are still reeling from other high-profile police shootings.

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

Some 50 friends and neighbours gathered in a semicircle on Sunday near the shooting site, with many more looking on from the sidewalk and street.

A makeshift memorial continues to grow at the scene where Ms Damond was shot and killed, with a steady procession of shattered friends and neighbours leaving flowers by the road.

"This is a lovely person. I can't imagine police shooting her," neighbour Joan Hargrave told the ABC.

"I loved her, I met her as a neighbour three or four times and I thought this is someone I really want to be friends with.

"So, it's a big loss for me."

Many residents are angry with what has happened, with some arguing that the number of shootings committed by police against citizens in the past few years "seems to be increasing".

"There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, and it's out of control," Brock told the ABC.

"It's a terrible impact in the city. I mean this is all over the world, people know it's dangerous to come here and this is going to have a terrible impact on this city.

"I wish I could to tell them that's not the way we are, but that is the way we are."

ABC/wires

Topics: law-crime-and-justice, police, family, community-and-society, united-states, sydney-2000

First posted July 18, 2017 11:55:19

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