A 40-year-old woman who was set to be married next month is dead after she called 911 to report a possible assault happening behind her home and was fatally shot by one of the responding police officers. Justine Damond, an Australian native who’s been living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and working as a yoga and meditation instructor, called 911 on Saturday night around 11:30 p.m. after hearing a disturbance in the alley behind her home. A source cited by CNN said Damond thought a sexual assault might have taken place.
According to witnesses, police arrived at the alley and Damond, who was wearing pajamas and reportedly not carrying a weapon of any kind, approached the driver’s side of the vehicle. Witnesses said Damond spoke with the officers and then, suddenly, the officer in the passenger’s seat pulled out his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, killing her. Adding to the mystery is the fact that neither officer’s body camera was turned on when the shooting occurred and the squad car’s dash cam didn’t capture footage of the incident.
The city’s mayor, Betsy Hodges, who previously represented the Fulton neighborhood, where Damond lived, as a city councilwoman, said the shooting was “tragic.”
“I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by the fatal officer-involved shooting that happened last night,” Hodges said. She also raised concerns about why the officers’ body cameras had been turned off. All Minneapolis police officers have been required to wear body cameras since last year’s fatal police shooting of Philando Castile. The two officers have been placed on paid leave as the investigation unfolds.
Justine Damond had studied to be a veterinarian in Sydney before moving to Minneapolis to be with her fiancé, Don Damond, 50. With their wedding date approaching, Justine had already changed her last name from Ruszczyk. The couple also have a son, Zach, 22, who was distraught in the hours after his mother’s fatal shooting and spoke out in a cellphone video that was shared online.
“Basically, my mom’s dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know,” Zach said. “I demand answers. If anybody can help, just call police and demand answers. I’m so done with all this violence.”
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