News

Justine's last moments caught on tape as questions pile up

THE police officer who shot dead an Australian woman after she called 911 for help in America's Midwest had little more than two years' experience on the force.

Mohamed Noor, from the Minneapolis Police Department, was sitting in the passenger seat of a police car when he shot across his partner, killing 40-year-old Justine Ruszczyk Damond about 11.30pm Saturday local time, according to KSTP.

The bride-to-be was shot multiple times, sources told KSTP. A mobile phone reportedly found near her body raised the prospect police thought it was a gun. No weapons were found at the scene.

 

Mohamed Noor (centre) fatally shot an Australian bride-to-be. Picture: Facebook/Betsy Hodges
Mohamed Noor (centre) fatally shot an Australian bride-to-be. Picture: Facebook/Betsy Hodges

Noor and his unidentified partner, whose cameras were not turned on during the shooting, have been placed on paid administrative leave.

Noor joined the Minneapolis Police Department in March 2015 and is the first Somali-American police officer assigned to the 5th Precinct in the southwest part of the city.

 

Noor's lawyer, Tom Plunkett, confirmed Noor fired his weapon, killing Ms Damond.

"We take this seriously with great compassion for all persons who are being touched by this," Mr Plunkett said, according to CBS.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which is conducting the investigation, said in a statement that "initial interviews with officers" still weren't complete two days after the shooting.

The BCA said an autopsy has been conducted on Ms Damond's body, adding their investigation "does not determine whether a law enforcement policy was violated".

Ms Damond's soon-to-stepson, Zach Damond, was approached by local media outside his home on Monday.

When asked by Fox 9 what he'd like to say to Noor, Zach Damond said: "Why? Why would you do this? He has no idea the impact that he has on thousands of people. No idea.

"But I hope that he wakes up every single day and thinks about it. And then I hope that he thinks about how he can be a better person because that's what she did every single day. And if you don't do that, you're not even living either."

It comes as the devastated family of Ms Damond, who was just weeks away from her wedding, demanded a federal investigation into how she died in her pyjamas.

Local residents hold a vigil at the scene of the shooting. Picture: Jeff Wagner/WCCO/Twitter
Local residents hold a vigil at the scene of the shooting. Picture: Jeff Wagner/WCCO/Twitter

Ms Damond had called for help after hearing what police said was "a possible assault" in a lane outside her home in southwest Minneapolis. Local media reported she was speaking through the door of their patrol car to the driver when she was shot.

On Monday morning, a steady stream of neighbours and friends arrived to lay flowers and tributes where Ms Damond was killed. Many expressed shock at the murder in their quiet middle class neighbourhood.

"This was not a woman who would have presented any kind of threat to police. She was a gentle, loving person," said Joan Hargrave, who lived down the street and befriended Ms Damond a year ago through a shared love of dogs.

Laurie Engel, who lives across the street from the driveway where Ms Damond fell, said she didn't hear a shot but watched in horror as police swarmed the area following the shooting.

"I was struck by the size of the body lying under the blanket there, I thought at first it must have been a child," she said.

"It was only later that I realised it was Justine, and it was such a shock. She didn't deserve this to happen."

The shooting occurred on the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue South in Minneapolis's Fulton neighbourhood.
The shooting occurred on the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue South in Minneapolis's Fulton neighbourhood.

Ms Damond was killed on a driveway about 60m down the back alley from the bungalow she shared with Don Damond and stepson Zach.

A crowd of more than 100 gathered at a vigil yesterday to remember the corporate speaker and meditation teacher, who moved from Sydney's Northern Beaches three years ago and was to marry US businessman Don Damond, 50, next month.

"This woman was a beautiful light. She was a healer, she was loved, she should be alive - she should still be here," said neighbour Bethany Bradley.

Damond's soon-to-be stepson Zach posted a poignant video about his "best friend", who had previously spoken out about America's gun culture.

"Basically my mum's dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don't know," he said.

"America sucks."

Australian woman Justine Damond (pictured with Don Damond and Zach Damond) was killed by police in Minneapolis. Picture: Facebook
Australian woman Justine Damond (pictured with Don Damond and Zach Damond) was killed by police in Minneapolis. Picture: Facebook

The two officers involved in the shooting were immediately placed on administrative leave while the local Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigates.

Don Damond, the vice president of Little Six Casino, was away on business when his partner was murdered and arrived at their home yesterday afternoon.

A family friend, who only wanted to be identified as Hannah, described the couple as "just so in love".

Among the many questions Damond's family asked yesterday were why the officers' body cameras weren't turned on. Activists were among the mourners outside the Damond home yesterday, and they quickly linked her name with other high profile victims of police shootings.

Large love hearts were chalked onto the driveway near where Damond fell, with the names Jamar Clark and Philando Castile, whose killings at the hands of police sparked protests and marches.

Hannah, 21, said she was a friend of Zach's and echoed the questions of many.

"I don't know what she was doing out," Hannah told the local Star Tribune newspaper.

"She's such a kind woman. She took me in when I was in a tough situation and helped me with whatever I needed."

Zach Damond described his future stepmother - who had already changed her surname on her business website ahead of her wedding - as "a very passionate woman".

"I just know she heard a sound in the alley so then she called the police and the cops showed up and she was a very passionate woman," he said.

"She probably thought something bad was happening and then next thing I know they take my best friend's life."

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges also questioned why the officers' cameras weren't filming and vowed to get answers on behalf of Damond.

"As mayor of our city, a wife, and a grandmother, I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by what occurred last night," Mayor Hodges said at a press conference yesterday.

'There are still many questions about what took place, and while the investigation is still in its early stages, I am asking the BCA to release as much information, as quickly as they are able to."

News Corp Australia

Topics:  editors picks justine damond



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