Aussie woman's shooting in US causes shock, uproar

Ms Justine Damond, who was due to be married next month to Mr Don Damond (below), was shot multiple times by a police officer. The reason remains unknown.
Ms Justine Damond, who was due to be married next month to Mr Don Damond, was shot multiple times by a police officer. The reason remains unknown.PHOTO: REUTERS
Ms Justine Damond, who was due to be married next month to Mr Don Damond (below), was shot multiple times by a police officer. The reason remains unknown.
Ms Justine Damond, who was due to be married next month to Mr Don Damond (above), was shot multiple times by a police officer. The reason remains unknown.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • Australians have reacted with shock and outrage following the fatal shooting of an unarmed Australian woman by a Minneapolis police officer in an alley behind her home.

The police were responding to the woman's own 911 call, to report a suspected sexual assault.

Ms Justine Damond, 40, an immigrant who described herself as a spiritual healer and was due to be married next month, was shot on Saturday in a quiet upper middle-class residential area of Minneapolis shortly before midnight.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota have demanded answers as to why the two responding officers failed to turn on their body cameras when they arrived at Ms Damond's home. Their vehicle's dashboard camera was not running.

Ms Damond's father has called for justice for his daughter.

"We only ask that the light of justice shine down on the circumstances of her death," an emotional Mr John Ruszczyk told Sydney's Daily Telegraph, which yesterday devoted its whole front page to the story with the headline "American Nightmare".

"We thought yesterday was our worst nightmare.

"But we awoke to the ugly truth, and it hurt even more," said Mr Ruszczyk, a Sydney bookseller.

An Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporter in Minneapolis told the country's national news last night that no one in the neighbourhood could understand why Ms Damond, wearing her pyjamas, allegedly talking to one police officer in the driver's seat through the vehicle window, was shot multiple times by his partner.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office said she was shot in the abdomen and has ruled her death a homicide.

The officer who fired has been identified as Somali-born Mohamed Noor, who has served with the Minneapolis police for two years. His lawyer said in a statement that Officer Noor extends his condolences to Ms Damond's family.

"He takes these events very seriously because for him being a police officer is a calling," said the statement. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave.

Ms Damond, formerly Justine Ruszczyk, took her fiance's surname before her planned wedding next month. She trained in Australia as a veterinarian and moved to the United States in 2015. Her fiance Don Damond told reporters: "We lost the dearest of people and we are desperate for information."

Hundreds took to the streets of Minneapolis on Sunday to protest and mourn Ms Damond's shooting.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau on Monday called Ms Damond's death "tragic" and promised a "transparent" investigation.

Ms Sarah Darmody, who said in a Facebook post that she had been friends with Ms Damond since high school in Sydney, blamed the shooting on the gun laws in the US.

"There is no good reason and there are no other countries in the world where people would rather arm everyone than stop this happening," she said.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2017, with the headline 'Aussie woman's shooting in US causes shock, uproar'. Print Edition | Subscribe