Fiance of woman shot, killed by officer says he lacks answers
MINNEAPOLIS – The fiance of Justine Damond, the woman shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer in the alley behind her home Saturday night, said his “utterly devastated” family has been told little by law enforcement about what transpired.
“We lost the dearest of people and are desperate for information,” Don Damond said Monday afternoon. “Piecing together Justine’s last moments before the homicide would provide small comfort as we grieve this tragedy.”
The officer who shot Damond has been identified as Officer Mohamed Noor. Meanwhile, state investigators have confirmed that they did not find any weapons at the scene. Sources identified his partner on the scene, who did not fire any shots, as Officer Matthew Harrity.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau issued a statement Monday afternoon saying she would request a speedy investigation into the shooting, which she called “tragic.”
“I have many of the same questions and it is why we immediately asked for an external and independent investigation into the officer-involved shooting death,” said Harteau, who is out of state “on a personal commitment” but is receiving regular briefings and will return soon, according to a police spokesperson. “I also want to assure you that I understand why so many people have so many questions at this point. I’ve asked for the investigation to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can.”
Flanked by his family while standing in front of his Fulton neighborhood home, Don Damond read a brief statement saying his fiance called 911 to report “what she believed was an active sexual assault occurring nearby.”
“Sadly, her family and I have been provided with almost no information from law enforcement regarding what happened after police arrived.”
Emergency dispatch audio posted on PoliceClips.com offers some insight into the response of police and other emergency personnel. The Twin Cities website monitors law enforcement scanner dispatches and shares them online. “Female screaming behind the building,” says the dispatcher at shortly before 11:28 p.m.
Later, an officer declares “shots fired,” and requests emergency medical personnel. “We’ve got one down” quickly follows.
A call was immediately made for emergency medical personnel to rush to the scene.
After the “shots fired” transmission, the initiation of CPR was reported from the scene, near the intersection of Washburn Avenue and 51st Street.
After the shooting, an officer says “no suspects at large.”
On Monday, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said officers were responding to a 911 call of a “possible assault.” “At one point an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman,” the news release said. “BCA crime scene personnel located no weapons at the scene.”
The BCA confirmed that an autopsy has been completed. After confirming that there was no body camera or dashcam footage of the incident, the agency said the investigation “does not determine whether a law enforcement agency policy was violated. That would be reviewed through the agency’s internal affairs process.”
Don Damond was going to marry Justine Damond, who was from Sydney, Australia, in August. He described her as a teacher to many while “living a life of openness, love and kindness.”
While the couple were not yet married, Justine referred to herself as Damond on her personal website. Her maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk.
“Our lives are forever changed as a result of knowing her, she was so kind and so darn funny, she made us all laugh with her great wit and her humor,” he said. “It is difficult to fathom how to go forward without her in my life.”
The BCA has not officially named Noor, but a source confirmed that he was the shooter. Attorney Tom Plunkett is representing the officer, but declined to identify him.
The morning afterward about 200 people gathered Sunday to mourn Damond. Loving messages remain written in chalk on the sidewalk near the scene, at the end of an alley. A bouquet of flowers rested on the windshield of an SUV.
“This is about Justine; it’s about Don, a horrific thing has happened in their lives, but it reverberates through the community,” said neighbor Richard Burbach, looking on as Australian news crews gathered around the Damond home.
“I hope that the global media can continue to put enough focus on this, that there is a kind of pressure that will provide an essential ingredient that will change policing, not just in Minneapolis but the country as well.”
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton had no comment Monday on the shooting. Law enforcement had previously criticized Dayton for comments he made the day after Philando Castile was killed by former St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez.
“Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white?” Dayton asked last year. “I don’t think it would have . ... On behalf of all decent-minded Minnesotans, we are shocked and horrified. This kind of behavior is unacceptable.”
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation as well as a spokesperson with the Somali American Police Association, declined to comment until the BCA investigation is complete.
Minneapolis police confirmed that the two officers involved are on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure.