Australian woman killed by police after calling 911, family says

A 40-year-old Australian woman who was set to get married next month was shot and killed Saturday by a Minneapolis police officer after authorities responded to her report of a possible assault behind her home, according to multiple reports. 

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The woman, identified by The Sydney Morning as Justine Damond, was shot around 11:30 p.m. Saturday after a pair of Minneapolis police officers responded to a 911 call near the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue South, police said. 

In a video posted to Facebook, Damond’s stepson, Zach Damond, said that she called authorities after hearing a suspicious sound in the alley behind the family’s home Saturday night. The Star Tribune reported that Justine went by her to-be married name instead of her maiden name, Justine Ruszczyk.

“At one point an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman,” the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Sunday in a news release. “The officers’ body cameras were not turned on at the time and the squad camera did not capture the incident. Investigators are attempting to determine whether any video of the incident exists.”

Citing three unidentified sources with knowledge of the incident, the Star Tribune reported that an officer, sitting in the driver’s seat of a squad car, was speaking with Damond when the officer seated in the car’s passenger seat pulled his gun and shot her. The bullet went through the driver’s side door, according to the Star Tribune.

No weapons were recovered at the scene, the newspaper reported.

“Basically, my mom’s dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know,” Zach Damond said in the Facebook video (Warning: Video contains strong language. Viewer discretion is advised), referring to Justine as his mom. “I demand answers. If anybody can help, just call police and demand answers. I’m so done with all this violence.”

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said Sunday that the shooting made her “heartsick” and “deeply disturbed.”

“We have few facts at this point,” she said Sunday at a news conference. “I have questions about why the bodycams weren’t on.”

A friend of Damond’s said she moved to the United States about three years ago to be with her fiancé, The New York Times reported.

“They were so in love,” Omo said, according to the Times.

Damond led meditation workshops at Minneapolis' Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, according to the center's website. She practiced yoga and meditation for nearly 20 years before her death.

“We are so sad to report the tragic shooting of Justine Damond,” the center said on its Facebook page. “Justine was one of the most loving people you would ever meet. We can't even imagine LHSC without her.”

Police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting. The officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave, following standard procedure, according to the Star Tribune. 

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