Minneapolis Community Mourns After City Police Fatally Shoot Australian Woman

A Minneapolis police offi­cer fatal­ly shot an Australian woman on Saturday night after she approached the officer’s cruis­er while wear­ing her paja­mas, accord­ing to local news report.

Australian media con­firmed Sunday that Justine Ruszczyk, 40, was killed in an offi­cer-involved shoot­ing over the week­end. It appears Ruszczyk most fre­quent­ly went by the name Justine Damond, even though she was not yet legal­ly mar­ried. Don Damond was engaged to be mar­ried to the vic­tim, accord­ing to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

U.S. and Australian author­i­ties have not pub­licly iden­ti­fied the vic­tim and few details were imme­di­ate­ly pro­vid­ed about the inci­dent. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner told HuffPost that the agency could con­firm the death of a Justine Ruszczyk, but could not release the cause of her death.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade con­firmed that a cit­i­zen of the coun­try had been killed, but declined to iden­ti­fy her until her fam­i­ly had been noti­fied, accord­ing to a state­ment obtained by HuffPost Australia. The agency said it would be pro­vid­ing con­sular assis­tance to her fam­i­ly.

Don Damond con­firmed the victim’s iden­ti­ty to Minnesota Public Radio.

Zach Damond, who iden­ti­fied him­self as the woman’s future step­son, said in a video post­ed to Facebook that she was killed after call­ing 911 to report a sound in the alley behind her home.

When police respond­ed to the call some­time after 11 p.m., Justine Damond, who was wear­ing her paja­mas, went out­side to talk to the offi­cers and approached the driver’s side win­dow. The offi­cer in the pas­sen­ger seat then pulled out his gun and shot through the driver’s side door, strik­ing Damond, sources famil­iar with the inci­dent told the Star Tribune. No weapon was found at the scene.

Basically my mom’s dead because a police offi­cer shot her for rea­sons I don’t know,” Zach Damond said in a video post­ed to the Facebook page for Women’s March Minnesota. “I demand answers. If any­body can help, just call police and demand answers. I’m so done with all this vio­lence.”

Posted by Women’s March Minnesota on Sunday, July 16, 2017

Minneapolis police faced intense pres­sure on Sunday after author­i­ties admit­ted there was no footage of the inci­dent.

The state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said body cam­eras worn by the offi­cers involved were “not turned on at the time and the squad cam­era did not cap­ture the inci­dent.” The agency said it was look­ing to see if any oth­er video was tak­en.

Since 2016, Minneapolis has required all offi­cers to wear and acti­vate their body cam­eras “at all times when they could rea­son­ably antic­i­pate that they may become involved in a sit­u­a­tion for which acti­va­tion is appro­pri­ate,” before any con­tact with a cit­i­zen.

Betsy Hodges, the may­or of Minneapolis, said she had “ques­tions about why the body­cams weren’t on,” and was “heart­sick and deeply dis­turbed by what occurred.”

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,” Hodges said in a state­ment. “My thoughts are now with every­one affect­ed by this trag­ic inci­dent, espe­cial­ly the deceased woman and her fam­i­ly.”

Both of the police offi­cers involved in the shoot­ing are on paid admin­is­tra­tive leave, the Star Tribune reports.

Vigils took place on Sunday around the home of the vic­tim, at times draw­ing upwards of 200 peo­ple, jour­nal­ists at the scene report­ed. Neighbors gath­ered out­side Justine Damond’s house told local news out­lets they were “shocked” by the event, with some link­ing the inci­dent to oth­er offi­cer-involved shoot­ing in Minnesota in recent years.

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

Vigil crowd swelled to 200 strong, all pray­ing for Justine — the woman neigh­bors iden­ti­fied as who a MPD offi­cer killed last night. @WCCO

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Long prayer cir­cle form­ing at vig­il for woman killed by MPLS police offi­cer last night. @WCCO

The Minneapolis-St. Paul met­ro­pol­i­tan area was rocked by anoth­er police shoot­ing last year, when an offi­cer fatal­ly shot Philando Castile in the sub­urb of St. Anthony, just miles from the scene of Saturday night’s inci­dent. The offi­cer faced charges in the death of Castile, who was black, but was acquit­ted last month. He has since left the St. Anthony police depart­ment.

Members of the Minneapolis NAACP spoke at the vig­il Sunday, telling atten­dees that Damond’s death was a reminder that police vio­lence is an issue that can affect any com­mu­ni­ty, regard­less of race or socioe­co­nom­ic class.

It’s time for us to have empa­thy for one anoth­er; it’s time for us to rec­og­nize we are the human race and it shouldn’t have to be in our own back­yard for us to pay atten­tion,” said Leslie Redmond, sec­ond vice pres­i­dent of the Minneapolis NAACP. “I’m not a 40-year-old white woman. However, I am a daugh­ter ― I could only imag­ine how I would feel if this was my moth­er. I rec­og­nize her human­i­ty.”