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Bride-to-be called 911 for help and was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer

17 July 2017 7:32 AM
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An Australia native and bride-to-be living in Minneapolis was fatally shot by city police Saturday night after she called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley behind her home.

The woman was identified by family in local and Australian news reports as 40-year-old Justine Damond, who grew up and was educated in Sydney before moving to Minneapolis to be with her fiance.

Damond’s call came in just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday and two Minneapolis Police Department officers responded to her home in the Fulton neighborhood, a popular area on the city’s southwest side, according to a news release from the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

“At one point an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman,” the statement said.

But the BCA offered few other details on what precipitated the shooting and, it said, neither responding officer had turned on their body cameras before the shooting. The squad car camera did not capture the incident either. Investigators are looking into whether other video of the shooting exists, the statement said.

“We all want to know more. I want to know more,” Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said during a news conference Sunday afternoon. “I call on the BCA … to share as much information as they can as quickly as they possibly can.”

In a series of statements since Saturday, Hodges has called the shooting a “tragic incident” and said she is “deeply disturbed by what occurred.”

“Tonight, I’m sad, and disturbed,” Hodges, who represented the Fulton area as a city council member, wrote on Facebook Sunday night. “This is a tragedy—for the family, for a neighborhood I know well, and for our whole city. … There is a long road of healing ahead, and a lot of work remains to be done. I hope to help us along that path in any way I can.

“But right now, I’m sad, disturbed, and looking for more answers, like many of you.”

Three people “with knowledge of the incident” told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the responding officers pulled into the alley behind Damond’s home. The woman, wearing pajamas, approached the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver, reported the Star Tribune. The officer in the passenger seat shot Damond through the driver’s side door, the three people told the newspaper.

“Basically, my mom’s dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know,” Zach Damond, Justine Damond’s stepson, said in a video posted to the Women’s March Minnesota Facebook page. “I demand answers. If anybody can help, just call the police and demand answers. I’m so done with all this violence.”

The 22-year-old man said that Damond heard a sound in the alley so she called police “and the cops showed up.”

Another woman in the video, Bethany Bradley with Women’s March Minnesota, said police were not being transparent or sharing information with the family. She also lives in the Fulton area.

Justine Damond’s birth name was “Ruszczyk” but she had already taken the last name of her fiance, Don Damond, 50. The couple were to marry in August, reported the Star Tribune. Don Damond was away on a business trip when the shooting occurred.

Justine Damond attended high school in Australia and graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree in 2002, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Her personal and business website says she was a qualified yoga instructor, meditation teacher and a personal health and life coach. She was a “very passionate” person, her stepson said.

A vigil for Damond was held Sunday in the alley where she was shot. The Minneapolis NAACP, three mayoral candidates and about 250 other friends, family and community members attended.

“This woman was a beautiful light,” Bradley said at the vigil. “She was a healer. She was loved. And she should be alive. She should still be here.”


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