The medical examiner who conducted the post mortem on expatriate Australian Justine Ruszczyk Damond has ruled her death was homicide.
Damond, 40, was shot dead by a policeman in Minneapolis late on Saturday night after she’d placed a 911 call over a possible sexual assault taking place in an alley near her home.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said Damond “died of a gunshot wound of the abdomen” at around 11.51pm.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner are investigating, the office said.
The Bureau released the following statement outlining the facts around the shooting:
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) continues to investigate an officer involved shooting incident that happened late Saturday night in Minneapolis. The investigation is being conducted at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Two Minneapolis police officers responded to a 911 call of a possible assault just north of the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue South just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday. At one point an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman.
BCA crime scene personnel located no weapons at the scene. The BCA continues to examine evidence to determine the facts that led to the shooting incident.
The BCA will provide additional details of the incident once initial interviews with the officers are complete. Those interviews have been requested by BCA agents. The officers are working with their attorneys to schedule them. Both officers are on standard administrative leave.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office has conducted an autopsy on the deceased woman and will formally release the woman’s identity and the cause and manner of death once all family notifications are completed.
As previously reported, the officers’ body cameras were not turned on at the time of the incident and the squad camera did not capture the incident. The BCA’s investigation does not determine whether a law enforcement agency policy was violated. That would be reviewed through the agency’s internal affairs process.
The BCA conducts officer involved shooting investigations the same way it does all investigations. BCA agents interview witnesses and the people involved in the incident; collect, analyze and review evidence; and conduct follow-up interviews as needed to ultimately find all of the facts of a case.
The agency involved in the incident has no input regarding the investigative direction of the case. As an independent fact finder, the BCA does not decide or determine the outcome of a case. As it does in all investigations, the BCA will present its findings without recommendations to a county attorney for review.
The lawyer for the Minneapolis Police Department officer involved, Mohamed Noor, 31, has also issued a statement offering his condolences.
“He takes these events very seriously because, for him, being a police officer is a calling,” it said.
— Kent Erdahl (@kenterdahl) July 17, 2017
The Somali-American police officer had been in the force for two years.
Justine Ruszczyk Damond was due to marry American Don Damond, 50, next month. Her fiance spoke to the media today saying the family had been kept in the dark on what happened by police.
“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 comforts as we grieve this tragedy.”
Damond said his future wife touched many people with a “loving and generous heart”.
“She was so kind and so darn funny,” he said.
“Our hearts are broken and we utterly devastated by the loss of Justine,” he said.
Ruszczyk’s family, who live on Sydney’s northern beaches, also issued a statement saying they were still coming to terms with the tragedy and what happened.
Here is the statement:
We’ll remember her energy, her intelligence and the joy that she brought to her life.
They are trying to come to terms with this tragedy and to understand why this has happened.
She will undoubtedly be very missed by the family.
She was treasured and loved.
The officers are heard talking with their dispatcher over the radio, calling for back-up and their attempts to perform CPR.
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