Relatives demand answers in fatal Minnesota police shooting

Updated: 2017-07-18 10:03
Relatives demand answers in fatal Minnesota police shooting

Don Damond hugs a neighbor after reading a statement about his fiance, Justine Damond who was fatally shot by Minneapolis police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US, July 17, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

MINNEAPOLIS — Relatives and neighbors of an Australian woman fatally shot by Minneapolis police over the weekend demanded answers Monday about the mysterious shooting in which the meditation teacher was reportedly killed by an officer who fired from the passenger seat of a squad car as the woman stood outside the driver's door.

Authorities released no details about what led to the shooting of Justine Damond, whose fiance said she had called 911 to report what she believed was a sexual assault in an alley near her home.

Police said officers were responding to a call about a possible assault late Saturday when she was killed. There were no known witnesses other than the two officers in the squad car that showed up. A newspaper report said Damond was shot while standing alongside the car in her pajamas.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office on Monday night said the woman died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Her death was ruled a homicide.

Her fiancé, Don Damond, said the family has been given almost no additional information about what happened after police arrived.

"We've lost the dearest of people, and we're desperate for information," he said. "Piecing together Justine's last moments before the homicide would be a small comfort as we grieve this tragedy."Damond's family members in Australia also released a statement Monday through Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, saying they "are trying to come to terms with this tragedy and to understand why this has happened."Authorities did not release the woman's name, but the Star Tribune identified her as Damond, from Sydney, Australia. The newspaper reported that she was engaged to be married in August and was using her fiance's last name. Her maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk.

Almost two days after her death, police offered no public explanation and referred questions to the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which was investigating. A Monday statement from the BCA said more information would be provided once the officers were interviewed.

The BCA said Monday that no weapons were found at the scene.

Local media identified the officer who fired as Mohamed Noor, who is a Somali-American. A city newsletter said he joined the police department in March 2015.

His attorney, Tom Plunkett, released a statement saying Noor offered his condolences to the family "and keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers."The statement added: "He joined the police force to serve the community and to protect the people he serves. Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves, and he empathizes with the loss others are experiencing."Noor was sued earlier this year after a May 25 incident in which he and other officers took a woman to the hospital on a mental health hold. The lawsuit claims Noor and the other officers violated the woman's rights when they entered her home without her permission and Noor grabbed her wrist and upper arm. Noor relaxed his grip when the woman said she had a previous shoulder injury, the lawsuit says.

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