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Mystery surrounds homicide of Australian woman Justine Damond

18 July 2017 8:43 PM
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Mystery surrounds homicide of Australian woman Justine Damond

THE tragic death of Justine Damond could be linked to the possible setting off of fireworks in the Minneapolis suburb where she was gunned down in her pyjamas by police, it has emerged.

A source with knowledge of Minneapolis law enforcement, who asked not to be identified, told AAP it “would be good common sense to investigate” the fireworks link.

The sound of fireworks may have startled Officer Mohamed Noor, the policeman who fired the fatal bullet.

The reference to fireworks is heard during the police radio conversations between Officer Noor, his partner Officer Matthew Harrity, the police dispatcher co-ordinating the emergency call and other officers rushing to scene. At one point the dispatcher asks for a precinct sergeant to acknowledge a report of “two shots heard from the east”.

“We heard those sounds from the station,” an officer responds. “Those are probably aerial fireworks.”

That news came after friends revealed more about the extraordinary life of Ms Damond after she was gunned down by an officer in America’s Midwest.

The Sydney life coach has already been described as “passionate” and having a “generous heart”, but the extent of that generosity was uncovered when a friend told Fox 9 of Ms Damond’s selfless sacrifice.

When a close friend struggled to fall pregnant, Jay Peterson said Ms Damond donated some of her own eggs to help.

Ms Damond’s devastated fiance said on Tuesday she was murdered as it emerged the police officer who shot her dead was the subject of at least one excessive force complaint.

Officer Noor had been publicly celebrated as the first Somali-American officer in his inner city Minneapolis precinct when he commenced duty two years ago.

But on Saturday night at 11.30pm, something made him open fire on pyjama-clad Ms Damond, 40, in a driveway near her middle-class, inner-city bungalow. The Minneapolis medical examiner last night ruled she died from a gunshot to the abdomen, which was listed as a homicide.

Her fiance, whom she was to wed within weeks, said Ms Damond called police for help after hearing a woman being attacked in the alley outside their home.

“It was Justine who called 911 on Saturday evening, reporting what she believed was an active sexual assault occurring nearby,” Mr Damond said yesterday in a brief press conference in his neighbour’s front yard beneath a blazing sun.

“Sadly our family and I have been provided with absolutely no additional information from law enforcement regarding what happened after police arrived.

“We’ve lost the dearest of people and we are desperate for information. Piecing together Justine’s last moments before the homicide would be a small comfort as we grieve this tragedy.”

Officer Noor last night offered his condolences to Ms Damond’s family in a statement released by his lawyer as it emerged he was the subject of at least one and possibly three formal complaints.

“Officer Noor extends his condolences to the family and anyone else who has been touched by this event. He takes their loss seriously and keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers,” the statement said.

“The current environment for police is difficult, but Officer Noor accepts this as part of his calling. We would like to say more, and will in the future. At this time, however, there are several investigations ongoing and Officer Noor wants to respect the privacy to the family and asks the same in return during this difficult period.”

Noor was this year sued by a woman who alleged excessive force in an incident on May 25, where court records show a woman complained Noor was among officers who mistreated her while she was on a mental health order.

Minneapolis TV station KSTP yesterday reported Noor was the subject of three complaints. No further detail was available on the further complaints, but the station said one had been dismissed with no disciplinary action while the other two were pending.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting and would not confirm any further detail. In a statement yesterday, they said “initial interviews with officers” still weren’t complete two days after the shooting.

Betsy Hodges, the Mayor of Minneapolis, is demanding to know why neither officer had their bodycam turned on at the time.

“You know, I fought hard to make sure that we have body cameras,” she told Good Morning America. “They’re a very powerful tool, they’re not an infallible tool, but they’re an important tool in 21st century policing and I don’t know why they weren’t turned on.

“I don’t know what happened. That’s one of the key questions that we have as the investigations move forward,” she said.

On Tuesday, neighbours, friends and colleagues created a makeshift shrine on the driveway where she was killed, leaving flowers, tributes and messages to Ms Damond.

Laurie Engel, who lives across the street from the driveway, said she didn’t hear a shot but watched in horror as police swarmed the area following the shooting.

“I was struck by the size of the body lying under the blanket there, I thought at first it must have been a child,” she said.

“It was only later that I realised it was Justine, and it was such a shock. She didn’t deserve this to happen.”

Mr Damond, whose son Zach had described Ms Damond as his “best friend”, yesterday said he wanted people to focus on his fiancé’s legacy as the search continued for answers.

“The death of Justine is a loss to everyone who knew her. She touched so many people with her loving and generous heart, she was a teacher to so many and living a life of openness, love and kindness,” he said.

“Our lives are forever changed as a result of knowing her. She was so kind and so darn funny. She made us all laugh with her great wit and her humour. It is difficult to fathom how to go forward without her in my life.”

Source: dailytelegraph.com.au

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