Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull demands answers on Minneapolis police shooting of woman

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, on May 24, 2017.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, on May 24, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

MINNESOTA (REUTERS) - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the fatal shooting of an Australian woman by a Minneapolis police officer over the weekend "shocking" and "inexplicable" and said his diplomats were seeking answers from US authorities.

A Minneapolis police officer shot Justine Damond, who was originally from Sydney, around midnight on Saturday (July 15) while responding to an emergency call she had placed about a possible assault behind her house in a quiet residential neighbourhood.

Turnbull said in a television interview on Wednesday (July 19) morning in Australia (Tuesday evening in the United States) that he and the Australian consul-general in Chicago were seeking answers.

"How can a woman out in the street in her pyjamas seeking assistance be shot like that?" the Prime Minister said in an interview with Nine Network. "It is a shocking killing and, yes, we are demanding answers on behalf of her family."

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which reviews shootings involving the police in Minneapolis, is seeking any civilian video of the incident.

 

In a statement on Tuesday evening, it identified the officer who shot Damond as Mohamed Noor.

Noor's lawyer, Tom Plunkett, said in a statement that Noor extends his condolences to Damond's family.

The agency identified an officer who was in the patrol car with Noor as Matthew Harrity. Both have been placed on administrative leave.

Damond's family joined with friends and others in a silent dawn vigil on Sydney's Freshwater Beach, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

A didgeridoo was played and a single rose thrown into the ocean.

Damond died of a gunshot wound in the abdomen, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office said in concluding that her death was a homicide.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota have questioned why Minneapolis police who fatally shot Damond did not have their body cameras and vehicle dashboard camera turned on at the time.

Keith Ellison, a Democratic member of Congress whose district includes Minneapolis, said Damond's death stemmed from a "systemic problem."

"We need to confront the reality of so many unarmed people killed by the same officers who swear an oath to protect us," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Justine's death shows no one should assume 'officer-involved shootings' only happen in a certain part of town or to certain kinds of people."

Damond, who was also known as Justine Ruszczyk, had taken the name of her fiance, Don Damond, ahead of their wedding.

She owned a meditation and life-coaching company, according to her personal website.