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Why Did Police Kill Justine Damond Outside Her Home? Here's What We Know.

Several major questions remain unanswered days after Damond was fatally shot by a cop responding to her 911 call.

19/07/2017 2:48 AM AEST | Updated 19/07/2017 10:40 PM AEST

It’s been several days since a Minneapolis police officer fatally shot an Australian bride-to-be, yet basic questions remain unanswered by law enforcement officials. 

Justine Damond, 40, was shot in the abdomen by officer Mohamed Noor, 31, his lawyer confirmed. Noor had been responding with his partner to Damond’s 911 call for assistance Saturday night.

Damond had called police to report a possible sexual assault near her house after hearing a suspicious sound. Witnesses told The Star Tribune that Damond, wearing pajamas, was speaking to officer Matthew Harrity, 25, through the driver-side window of the police cruiser when Noor, sitting in the passenger’s seat, shot Damond through the driver-side door.

Family and friends of Damond are demanding answers as Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) continues to investigate the incident. 

What we know

  • Damond was reportedly unarmed, wearing pajamas and speaking to an officer when she was killed. A cell phone was found near her body, according to The Star Tribune.

  • The Australian woman died from a single gunshot to the abdomen, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner stated Monday. The manner of death was determined as homicide.

  • Damond’s legal name was Justine Ruszczyk, though she frequently went by the surname of her fiancé, Don Damond. Don Damond is the general manager of Little Six Casino, located roughly 20 miles from the Minneapolis neighborhood where he lived with his fiancée. The couple planned to marry in August.

  • Justine Damond moved to the U.S. from Australia in 2015 to be with her fiancé. She was a qualified yoga instructor and ran a business as a motivational speaker and meditation teacher. She grew up in Sydney, where she received a bachelor’s degree in veterinary science from the University of Sydney in 2002.

  • Don Damond was away on a business trip during the shooting. He told reporters on Monday that both his and his fiancée’s families were getting nothing from police. “Sadly, her family and I have been provided with almost no additional information from law enforcement regarding what happened after police arrived,” he said outside his home in Fulton.

  • Noor joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 2015 and became his precinct’s first Somali-American officer after completing his field training in 2016. He is one of nine Somali-American officers in the city’s police force.

  • Three minor complaints have been filed against Noor during his tenure as an MPD officer, local outlets reported, citing the Office of Police Conduct Review. One complaint was reportedly dismissed without disciplinary action, while the other two remain open.

  • Before joining the MPD, Noor worked in property management. He holds a degree in economics and business administration from Augsburg College. 

What we don’t know

Why isn’t there any footage of the shooting?

  • The MPD said Sunday that the officers involved had not turned on their body cameras and that the cruiser’s dashboard camera did not capture any footage of the incident.

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

  • During rapidly developing situations, department policy calls for officers to activate cameras “as soon as it is safe to do so.” The force’s body cameras have 30-second buffer features, which backtrack and save a silent, half-minute portion of video once they’re activated. If the involved officers had switched on their cameras within 30 seconds of the shooting, the incident would presumably be recorded.

  • Hennepin County lawyer Mike Freeman said Tuesday he’s only aware of details of the shooting that have been reported, but he feels the officers’ body cameras should have been turned on during their interaction with Justine Damond.

  • The BCA is investigating the incident and will turn over its findings to the Hennepin County Attorney’s office when complete.

What happened between Justine Damond’s 911 call and her death?

  • The BCA on Tuesday released information from its preliminary investigation of the incident, including an account from Officer Harrity. Officer Noor declined to be interviewed.

  • According to Harrity’s account, the officers drove their squad car down the alley near Damond’s home with the vehicle’s squad lights turned off. He said he was “startled by a loud sound near” the vehicle before Damond approached the officers, and then Noor fired his weapon through the driver’s side window, striking Damond.

  • “The officers immediately exited the squad and provided medical attention until medical personnel arrived,” the BCA said in a statement, noting that the victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

  • The agency also said Harrity saw an unidentified white male, aged 18-25, near the scene who watched the officers provide medical aid to Damond. The BCA has been unable to find him, and released a plea for him to step forward.

  • Audio reportedly from the scene features an officer calling dispatch to report, “Shots fired ... we have one down,” and asking for EMS.

Did Noor and Harrity investigate the reported noise and possible sexual assault?

  • The officers had been responding to Justine Damond’s 911 call report about a strange noise behind her house that she thought could be a possible sexual assault. It’s unclear what, if anything, the officers discovered when they arrived on the scene aside from Harrity’s account that he was startled.

When will Noor speak to authorities?

  • The BCA has said that under the law, it cannot compel Noor to give an account of the evening. He has declined to be interviewed by the agency “at this time,” the BCA said, adding that “Officer Noor’s attorney did not provide clarification on when, if ever, an interview would be possible.”

  • Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has called on Noor to speak out, telling reporters on Tuesday that, “I wish that he would, because he has a story to tell that no-one else can tell.”

Nick Visser contributed reporting.

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