NA­TION WHY KILL JUS­TINE?

Townsville Bulletin - - NATION - SARAH BLAKE in Min­neapo­lis

A SYD­NEY woman just weeks away from her wed­ding was shot dead by po­lice in her adopted new home­town in Amer­ica’s Mid­west af­ter call­ing 911 for help.

The dev­as­tated fam­ily and friends of Jus­tine Ruszczyk Da­mond, 40, yes­ter­day de­manded a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into how she died in her py­ja­mas late Satur­day night.

Ms Da­mond had called for help af­ter hear­ing what po­lice said was “a pos­si­ble as­sault” in a lane out­side her home in south­west Min­neapo­lis. She was killed at 11.30pm by at least one shot from the two of­fi­cers who re­sponded to the call. Lo­cal me­dia re­ported she was still in her py­ja­mas and speak­ing through the door of their pa­trol car to the driver when the pas­sen­ger shot her.

No weapon was re­cov­ered at the scene and it is un­der­stood the of­fi­cer’s body cam­eras were not turned on at the time of the fa­tal in­ci­dent.

A crowd of more than 100 gath­ered at a vigil yes­ter­day to re­mem­ber the cor­po­rate speaker and med­i­ta­tion teacher, who moved from Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches three years ago and was to marry US busi­ness­man Don Da­mond, 50, next month.

“This woman was a beau­ti­ful light,” said neigh­bour Bethany Bradley. “She was a healer, she was loved, she should be alive – she should still be here.”

Da­mond’s soon- to- be step­son Zach posted a poignant video about the mys­tery death of his “best friend”, a woman who had pre­vi­ously spo­ken out about Amer­ica’s gun cul­ture.

“Ba­si­cally my mum’s dead be­cause a po­lice of­fi­cer shot her for rea­sons I don’t know,” he said. “Amer­ica sucks.” The two of­fi­cers in­volved in the shoot­ing were im­me­di­ately placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave while the lo­cal Bureau of Crim­i­nal Ap­pre­hen­sion in­ves­ti­gates.

Don Da­mond, the vice- pres­i­dent of Lit­tle Six Casino, was away on busi­ness when his part­ner was killed and ar­rived at their home yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

A fam­ily friend, who only wanted to be iden­ti­fied as Han­nah, de­scribed the cou­ple as “just so in love”.

Among the many ques­tions Da­mond’s fam­ily asked yes­ter­day were why the of­fi­cers’ cam­eras weren’t turned on. Ac­tivists were among the mourn­ers out­side the Da­mond home yes­ter­day, and they quickly linked her name with other high­pro­file vic­tims of po­lice shoot­ings.

Large love hearts were chalked onto the drive­way near where Da­mond fell, with the names Ja­mar Clark and Phi­lando Castile, whose killings at the hands of po­lice sparked protests and marches.

Han­nah, 21, who said she was a friend of Zach’s echoed the ques­tions of many.

“I don’t know what she was do­ing out,” Han­nah told the lo­cal Star Tri­bune news­pa­per. “She’s such a kind woman. “She took me in when I was in a tough sit­u­a­tion and helped me with what­ever I needed.”

She also said there was no way Ms Da­mond would have had a gun and that she had of­ten talked about how things were bet­ter in Aus­tralia be­cause of strict gun own­er­ship laws.

Zach Da­mond de­scribed his fu­ture step­mother – who had al­ready changed her sur­name on her busi­ness web­site ahead of her im­mi­nent wed­ding – as “a very pas­sion­ate woman”.

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