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Questions swirl after Australian woman is fatally shot by Minneapolis police; bodycams were off

Questions are swirling after a 40-year-old woman from Australia — a yoga and meditation teacher set to be married next month — was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer after family members said she called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley behind her home Saturday night, the Star-Tribune reported.

Primary among those questions is why police bodycams weren’t on when 40-year-old Justine Damond was shot.

The Star-Tribune reported that three sources with knowledge of the incident said two officers in a squad car pulled into the alley in response to the 911 call. Damond — who was in her pajamas — went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver when the officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, sources told the paper. No weapon was found at the scene, the Star-Tribune added.

“Two Minneapolis police officers responded to a 911 call of a possible assault just north of the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue S. just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday,” the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a news release, the paper said. “At one point, an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman.”

The bureau’s release said that the “officers’ body cameras were not turned on at the time and the squad camera did not capture the incident. Investigators are attempting to determine whether any video of the incident exists.”

Minneapolis police told the paper the two officers are on paid administrative leave.

More from the Star-Tribune:

Zach Damond, 22, whose father, Don, 50, was to be married to Justine in August, arrived at the scene with a close family friend about 11:30 a.m. Sunday. While the couple were not yet married, Justine referred to herself as Damond on her personal website. Her maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk.

“Basically, my mom is dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know, and I demand answers,” Zach Damond said on a video, referring to the victim. “And If anybody can help, just call the police and demand answers. I’m so done with all this violence. It’s so much bulls**t. America sucks. These cops need to get trained differently. I need to move out of here.”

Here’s the clip. (Content warning: Profanity):

The stepson of Justine Ruszczyk, Zach Damond, appeared at a Womens March Minnesota rally in Fulton on July 16 to speak about his stepmothers shooting death at the hands of police on July 15.Late on Saturday, July 15, police were called to a possible assault. Police said at one point an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman.Friends and colleagues of Justine gathered on Sunday afternoon to pay tribute, speaking about police brutality and raising concerns that police did not activate their bodycams.In this video, Zach says fuck the police and demands answers about his stepmothers death, calling her his mother and best friend. Credit: Womens March Minnesota via Storyful

Zach Damond also said on the video that his stepmother-to-be — a native of Sydney, Australia — called police after she “heard a sound in the alley.” He added on the clip, “F*** the police.”

A woman named Hannah — who told the Star-Tribune she didn’t want to give her last name for safety reasons and is a close friend of the Damond family — came to the scene with Zach Damond and called Justine Damond a “spiritual healer.”

“I don’t know what she was doing out,” Hannah told the paper.

From her home in the middle of the block she shared with her fiance, Justine Damond would have had to walk just over 100 yards to get to the end of the alley, the Star-Tribune said.

“She’s such a kind woman,” Hannah told the paper. “She took me in when I was in a tough situation and helped me with whatever I needed.”

A Sunday night community vigil at the spot Justine Damond was shot drew about 50 friends and neighbors who held hands in a semicircle, the Star-Tribune reported, while another 200 or more watched from the sidewalk and the street.

Dustin Johnson and his wife, Roz, live across the street from where Justine Damond lived and told the paper they saw the flashing lights and walked over to see police trying to resuscitate her while she lay on the ground. Johnson told the Star-Tribune he heard no gunshots.

The shooting comes on the heels of a Minneapolis-area police officer’s controversial acquittal a year after he shot a black man, Philando Castile, during a traffic stop.

Hannah told the paper there’s no way Justine Damond would have had a gun and that she often noted how much better it was in Australia where people aren’t allowed to have guns.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges on Sunday said, “I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by the fatal officer-involved shooting that happened last night,” the Star-Tribune reported, adding that she said she has “questions about why the bodycams weren’t on.”

Nearly 36 hours after a woman was shot and killed in south Minneapolis by police, several questions remain about what lead to the shooting and why body cameras weren't turned on, Rachel Slavik reports (2:09). WCCO This Morning July 17, 2017

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