An Australian woman described as a spiritual healer was shot dead by police in Minneapolis on Saturday after she reportedly called 911 herself — leaving angry friends and family searching for answers in a city that has just been at the center of another high-profile police shooting.
The killing of Justine Ruszczyk, who used the last name Damond, prompted hundreds of mourners to protest at the site of the shooting Sunday, demanding their questions be answered, according to NBC affiliate KARE.
Damond, 40, ran meditation workshops at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, which in a Facebook post called her “one of the most loving people you would ever meet.”
The officer who fired the shot was identified Monday afternoon as Mohammed Noor, multiple police sources told KARE. The police department has not released the identity of the officer as their investigation continues.
Noor, who joined the force in 2015, was celebrated as the Fifth Precinct’s first Somali officer, and he was recognized in May 2016 by Mayor Betsy Hodges, who called his assignment a “wonderful sign of building trust and community policing at work.”
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said it was investigating, although there appeared to be no video because the officers’ body cameras were switched off.
The police department said the squad car’s camera also failed to capture the incident. The BCA does not investigate whether or not officers violated a department policy, such as activating body cameras. Instead, that will be left to the Minneapolis Police Department to investigate internally.
Both officers have been placed on standard administrative leave, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement to NBC News that they were “providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian woman who died in a shooting in Minneapolis,” but did not comment further, citing privacy concerns.
They also put out a brief statement on behalf of the woman’s family:
“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,” read the statement. No further comment was given.
Justine Damond, an Australian woman who was shot dead by police in Minneapolis Saturday. Stephen Govel Photography / via Reuters
The tragedy unraveled shortly after 11:30 p.m. Saturday local time (12:30 a.m. Sunday ET), when the cops responded to call about a disturbance in southwest Minneapolis, officials said.
According to KARE’s sources, Noor shot across his partner, who was “stunned.” Noor has two open complaints from 2017 and 2016, KARE reported.
In a statement posted to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Twitter page, Chief Janeé Harteau said she “acknowledged the pain and frustration that family and community members” felt after the shooting.
“I also want to assure you that I understand why so many people have so many questions at this point. I have many of the same questions and it is why we immediately asked for an external and independent investigation into the officer-involved shooting death,” Harteau said. “I’ve asked for the investigation to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can.”
According to the woman’s stepson, Zach Damond, she had called the police after hearing a noise near her home.
“My mom is dead, because a police officer shot her, for reasons I don’t know, and I demand answers” he said in a tearful Facebook Live video. “I guess she thought that something bad was happening and, next thing I know, they take my best friends life.”
Damond was originally from Sydney, Australia, but lived with her fiancé in Minneapolis, according to the Star Tribune. The couple were due to get married next month, the paper reported.
Friends and neighbors described her as a “loving person” whose “whole mission in life was to help people with any problem,” KARE reported.
In a statement on Facebook, Hodges said Sunday, “I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by what occurred last night. 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.”
Justine Damond was originally from Sydney, Australia, but was living in Minneapolis with her fiancé , according to local media. Instagram
Last July, a suburban Minneapolis police officer fatally shot a black man during a traffic stop, that was live-streamed on Facebook. Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot school cafeteria worker and licensed gun owner Philando Castile, 32, in front of his girlfriend and her young daughter, sparking outcry and protests.
Last month Yanez was found not guilty of manslaughter and other charges for killing Castile.
And Yanez was soon after given $48,500 buy-out package to leave the force,prompting even more outrage.
Source: NBC News