02:41 GMT01 December 2020
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    An Australian woman was shot dead by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after calling 911 to report a suspected assault near her home. The Minneapolis Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is conducting an internal investigation and both officers have been placed on administrative leave.

    Justine Ruszczyk, who professionally went by Justine Damond, was a 40-year-old white native of Sydney, Australia. Damond was a "spiritual healer" who ran meditation workshops at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community. She had moved to Minneapolis to live with her American fiancé Don Damond, whom she was to marry in August, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

    According to her stepson Zach, Justine called the police after hearing a disturbing noise outside of her home late Saturday night. "My mom is dead, because a police officer shot her, for reasons I don't know, and I demand answers," he said in an emotional video posted to Facebook Live. "I guess she thought that something bad was happening and, next thing I know, they take my best friends life."

    The family also issued a public statement: "This is a very difficult time for our family. We are trying to come to terms with this tragedy and to understand why this has happened."

    Specifics of the incident are largely unknown. The police officers' body cameras were turned off, and the squad car's camera also failed to capture the incident. The BCA did confirm that an officer did fire his weapon, which was what killed Damond. It is unclear whether the officers were in violation of police policy when their cameras were off, but both officers' cameras being off has raised some eyebrows.

    According to Damond's neighbors, speaking to the Star Tribune, the police car pulled up next to her home. Damond, dressed in her pajamas, approached the driver's side and began to speak to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat then fatally shot Damond, the neighbors said.

    The officer who shot Damond has been identified as Mohamed Noor, a 31-year-old Somali immigrant. He is the subject of an existing lawsuit levied by a woman who says Noor injured her when he and two other officers transported her to the hospital. The officers claimed that they had reason to believe the woman was suffering a mental health crisis, which she denied.

    Because Damond was an Australian national, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has become involved in the case. A spokesman from the department told NBC that they were "providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian woman who died in a shooting in Minneapolis."

    Damond's workplace described her "one of the most loving people you would ever meet." Friends and neighbors agreed, saying that Damond's "whole mission in life was to help people with any problem" according to local NBC affiliate KARE.

    Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges issued a series of statements on Facebook about the incident. "I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by what occurred last night," she wrote on Sunday. "My thoughts are now with everyone affected by this tragic incident, especially the deceased woman and her family. The City will continue to provide updated information on this incident, and the BCA's investigation, as soon as we have it."

    "If you aren't getting information from the City, it's not because we're shirking our commitment to transparency," she added on Monday morning. "When Minneapolis doesn't manage the investigation itself, we don't have access to — and thus cannot share — information about the investigation, until the BCA makes it public. We are doing the best we can to cooperate with the BCA, while also pressing them to release as much information as they can as quickly as they can."

    In late 2016, Minneapolis passed a city policy that required all officers to wear body cameras after an officer fatally shot black motorist Philando Castile at a traffic stop in July 2016. The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, claimed that he believed Castile was going for a weapon. He was found not guilty of all charges in June.


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    police, Wrongful Death, body camera, police shooting, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Minneapolis Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Minneapolis Police Department, Betsy Hodges, Minnesota, Minneapolis
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