The Australian Woman Killed by Police in Minneapolis
Justine Damond’s death has sparked outrage and questions about why the officers had their body cameras switched off.
Justine Damond called police just before midnight Saturday to report a possible assault in the alley behind her home. Two officers responded in a squad car and, the Star Tribune reported, Damond went to the driver’s door in her pajamas; the officer in the passenger seat fired, killing her. The death of the 40-year-old Australian woman who was due to be married next month prompted global outrage as well as questions on why the officers hadn’t turned on their body cameras in line with the department’s rules.
Minneapolis Police officials say they’re looking into the shooting and released a short statement with few details: “At one point an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman,” the statement read in part. “The officers’ body cameras were not turned on at the time and the squad camera did not capture the incident.”
Damond was engaged to be married next month to Don Damond, an American with whom she lived in the city’s Fulton neighborhood. She had already taken his last name (her maiden name was Ruszczyk). She had attended high school in Australia and graduated from the University of Sydney with a degree in veterinary science in 2002. She moved to the U.S. in 2015 to be near her fiancé, and was studying and teaching yoga and meditation. Her website said she also worked as a personal-health and life coach.
“Her interest in supporting people to heal and transform themselves developed after she saw family members suffer greatly from depression, alcoholism and cancer,” her website said. “After losing much of her family to cancer she has spent many years on a personal investigative journey to discover how habits and disease develop, and how people can change and live in joy, expressing their full potential.”
Damond’s death prompted outrage locally and in her native Australia where it was front-page news. Her family has demanded a federal investigation. In Minneapolis, three mayoral candidates attended a vigil held for Damond. Mayor
Zach Damond, Don Damond’s son, posted a video in which he asked people to call the city. “If anybody can help, just call the police and demand answers. I’m so done with all this violence.”
“America sucks,” he added, “These cops need to get trained differently.
Police have not officially released the name of the officer who shot Damond, but the Star Tribune on Monday identified him as Mohamed Noor, who joined the department in 2015 and became the first Somali police officer in the 5th precinct.
Officers began wearing body cameras in the city last year after the death of Philando Castile, a black man who worked at a local school and who was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop. Castile’s girlfriend live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting, which occurred in a suburb outside of St. Paul. Body cameras are not always on and have to be manually started. In Minneapolis, police are required to film things like traffic stops, suspicious-person stops, any searches or interactions “involving physical or verbal confrontations.” It’s not clear why the officers were not filming in this situation with Damond.