Australian prime minister demands answers on Minneapolis police shooting

Australian prime minister demands answers on Minneapolis police shooting
Justine Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, from Sydney, is seen in this 2015 photo released by Stephen Govel Photography in New York, U.S.
PHOTO: Reuters

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the fatal shooting of an Australian woman by a Minneapolis police officer over the weekend "shocking" and "inexplicable" and said his diplomats were seeking answers from US authorities.

A Minneapolis police officer shot Justine Damond, who was originally from Sydney, around midnight on Saturday while responding to an emergency call she had placed about a possible assault behind her house in a quiet residential neighbourhood.

Turnbull said in a television interview on Wednesday morning in Australia (Tuesday evening in the United States) that he and the Australian consul-general in Chicago were seeking answers.

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

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which reviews shootings involving Minneapolis police, was seeking civilian video of the incident. In a statement on Tuesday evening it identified the officer who shot Damond as Mohamed Noor.

The agency identified an officer who was in the patrol car with Noor as Matthew Harrity. Both have been placed on administrative leave.

Noor's lawyer, Tom Plunkett, said in a statement that Noor extends his condolences to Damond's family.

Damond's family joined with friends and others in a silent dawn vigil on Sydney's Freshwater Beach, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. A didgeridoo was played and a single rose thrown into the ocean.

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.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota have questioned why Minneapolis police who fatally shot Damond did not have their body cameras and vehicle dashboard camera turned on at the time.

Keith Ellison, a Democratic member of Congress whose district includes Minneapolis, said Damond's death stemmed from a "systemic problem."

"We need to confront the reality of so many unarmed people killed by the same officers who swear an oath to protect us," he said in a statement on Tuesday. "Justine's death shows no one should assume 'officer-involved shootings' only happen in a certain part of town or to certain kinds of people."

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.

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