Justine Damond shooting: Police radio recording reveals Australian woman's final moments

Authorities are yet to release details about what led to the shooting

Samuel Osborne@SamuelOsborne93
Tuesday 18 July 2017 09:03
Australian mother shot and killed by police in Minnesota, US for unknown reasons

Audio has emerged of the moments surrounding the fatal shooting of an Australian spiritual healer and meditation coach by police in an alley behind her home in Minneapolis.

Justine Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk before she took on the last name of her husband, who she had plans to marry next month, was shot and killed by a police officer after she called 911 to report an assault near her home.

In the police radio recording, the officers can be heard communicating with their dispatcher and calling for backup, as well as attempting to perform CPR on the Sydney-raised woman.

"Shots fired... we got one down," an officer on the scene can be heard to say.

Justine Damond was known as Justine Ruszczyk before she took on the last name of her husband, who she had plans to marry next month (Courtesy Stephen Govel/Stephen Govel Photography/Handout via REUTERS)

The audio, posted on the Minnesota Police Clips website, begins with the description of a "female screaming behind the building," a potential reference to what Ms Damond told the dispatcher in her initial call to police.

Authorities are yet to release details about what led to Ms Damond's shooting.

There were no known witnesses other than the two officers in the squad car. A newspaper report said Ms Damond was shot while standing alongside the car in her pyjamas.

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.

Justine and Don Damond had plans to marry next month

Ms Damond's fiance, Don Damond, said the family has been given almost no additional information.

"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 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."

Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting. In a statement Monday, the BCA said more information would be provided once the officers were interviewed.

The BCA also said no weapons were found at the scene.

Don Damond is comforted by his son Zach Damond as he speaks to the media about his fiance Justine Damond
Don Damond hugs a neighbour after reading a statement about his fiance

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

His attorney, Tom Plunkett, released a statement saying Mr Noor offered his condolences to the family "and keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers."

"Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves, and he empathises with the loss others are experiencing," the statement said.

Mr Noor was sued earlier this year after a May 25 incident in which he and other officers took a woman to the hospital for an apparent mental health crisis.

The lawsuit claims Mr Noor and the other officers violated the woman's rights when they entered her home without permission and Mr Noor grabbed her wrist and upper arm. He relaxed his grip when the woman said she had a previous shoulder injury, the lawsuit says.

KSTP-TV reported that city records show Mr Noor had three complaints on file. The station did not provide details on the nature of the complaints, but said one was dismissed with no disciplinary action and the other two are pending.

A makeshift memorial is left at the scene where a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Justine Damond

The Star Tribune, citing three people with knowledge of the shooting, said the officers pulled into the alley in a single squad car, and Ms Damond talked to the driver.

The newspaper's sources, which it did not name, said the officer in the passenger seat shot her through the driver's-side door.

Neighbor Joan Hargrave called the killing "an execution."

"This is a tragedy — that someone who's asking for help would call the police and get shot by the police," Mr Hargrave said.

Officials said the officers' body cameras were not turned on and a squad car camera did not capture the shooting. Investigators were still trying to determine whether other video exists.

It's not clear why the officers' body cameras were not on.

The department has phased in body cameras for all of its officers over the last year. Department policy allows for a range of situations in which officers are supposed to turn cameras on, including "any contact involving criminal activity" and before use of force. If a body camera is not running before use of force, it's supposed to be turned on as soon as it's safe to do so.

Ms Damond's death is the latest high-profile police shooting in the Twin Cities area in recent years. Last year, 32-year-old Philando Castile was killed by an officer during a traffic stop in a nearby suburb after he told the officer he was armed.

And in November 2015, a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Jamar Clark during a struggle in which the officer said Mr Clark grabbed his partner's weapon.

Ms Damond's business website indicates she relocated to Minneapolis and worked as a yoga instructor, meditation teacher and personal health and life coach.

Originally trained as a veterinarian, she indicated on the site she was "most passionate about supporting individuals and organisations to discover the power and potential within their own brains and hearts."

Additional reporting by agencies

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