Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the fatal shooting of an Australian woman by a Minneapolis police officer over the weekend “shocking” and “inexplicable” and said his diplomats were seeking answers from U.S. authorities.
A Minneapolis police officer shot Justine Damond, who was originally from Sydney, around midnight Saturday while responding to an emergency call she had placed about a possible assault behind her house in a quiet residential neighborhood.
Turnbull said he and the Australian consul-general in Chicago were “seeking answers,” in a television interview on Wednesday morning in Australia (Tuesday evening in the U.S.).
“How can a woman out in the street in her pajamas seeking assistance be shot like that?” the prime minister said in an interview with Nine Network. “It is a shocking killing, and yes, we are demanding answers on behalf of her family.”
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which reviews shootings involving the police in Minneapolis, is seeking any civilian video of the incident and said the officer who shot Damond, who has been identified in local media as Mohamed Noor, and another officer who was in the patrol car with him have been placed on administrative leave.
Damond’s family joined with friends and others in a silent dawn vigil on Sydney’s Freshwater Beach, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. A didgeridoo was played and a single rose thrown into the ocean.
Damond died of a gunshot wound in the abdomen, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office said in concluding that her death was a homicide.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota have questioned why Minneapolis police who fatally shot Damond did not have their body cameras and vehicle dashboard camera turned on at the time.
Damond, who was also known as Justine Ruszczyk, had taken the name of her fiance, Don Damond, ahead of their wedding. She owned a meditation and life-coaching company, according to her personal website.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau called Damond’s death “tragic” in a statement on Monday and promised a “transparent” investigation.
Noor’s lawyer, Tom Plunkett, said in a statement that Noor extends his condolences to Damond’s family. The statement did not describe Noor’s role in the shooting, and authorities have not confirmed the identities of the officers involved.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Jonathan Allen in New York and Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Leslie Adler)