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New Details in Deadly US Police Shooting of Australian Woman

  • VOA News

Justine Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, from Sydney, Australia, is seen in this 2015 photo released by Stephen Govel Photography in New York, July 17, 2017.

The agency investigating the fatal police shooting of an Australian woman in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says one of the officers was startled by a loud noise just moments before his partner fired the deadly shot.

Justine Damond - a meditation teacher and bride-to-be - was killed late Saturday in the alley behind her home after she called emergency operators to report a possible sexual assault.

In an interview Tuesday with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the driver of the car, Officer Matthew Harrity, said Damond approached his side of the car immediately after he was startled by the noise. His partner, Officer Mohamed Noor, shot the unarmed woman from the passenger seat.

The BCA says Harrity told them he and Noor provided Damond with medical aid until emergency medical personnel arrived. The 40-year-old Sydney native was pronounced dead at the scene.

Noor has declined requests by the BCA to be interviewed. He and Harrity are both on paid administrative leave.

Officials say the officers' body cameras were not turned on, a violation of Minneapolis Police Department rules. The incident was also not captured by the patrol car's dashboard camera.

The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, of Minnesota is calling for answers as to why the officers did not turn on their body cameras when they arrived at Damond's home.

Damon's death has angered her fellow Australians. In a television interview Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the tragedy as "a shocking killing" and demanded answers into the incident on behalf of her family.

Turnbull said he and the Australian consul-general in Chicago were "seeking answers," in a television interview on Wednesday morning in Australia (Tuesday evening in the U.S.).

"How can a woman out in the street in her pajamas seeking assistance be shot like that?" the prime minister said in an interview with Nine Network. "It is a shocking killing, and yes, we are demanding answers on behalf of her family."

In this May 2016 image provided by the City of Minneapolis, police officer Mohamed Noor poses for a photo at a community event welcoming him to the Minneapolis police force.
In this May 2016 image provided by the City of Minneapolis, police officer Mohamed Noor poses for a photo at a community event welcoming him to the Minneapolis police force.

Damon's friends and family held a silent vigil on Sydney's Freshwater Beach early Wednesday.

This is the second major police shooting in the Minneapolis area over the last year. In July 2016, 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot and killed during a traffic stop in the sister city of St. Paul in an incident streamed live on social media by Castile's girlfriend. The officer who shot Castile, Jeronimo Yanez, was recently acquitted on charges of second-degree manslaughter.

A man reacts near scattered flowers during a vigil for Justine Damond, who was shot by a Minneapolis police officer over the weekend, at Sydney's Freshwater Beach in Australia, July 19, 2017.
A man reacts near scattered flowers during a vigil for Justine Damond, who was shot by a Minneapolis police officer over the weekend, at Sydney's Freshwater Beach in Australia, July 19, 2017.

Damond died of a gunshot wound in the abdomen, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office said in concluding that her death was a homicide.

Damond, who was also known as Justine Ruszczyk, had taken the name of her fiance, Don Damond, ahead of their wedding. She owned a meditation and life-coaching company, according to her personal website.

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

Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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