The Press

Bang may have triggered killing

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UNITED STATES: A mysterious cyclist and a loud, startling sound just before Australian Justine Damond was shot have emerged as potential keys to understand­ing why she was gunned down by a Minneapoli­s police officer.

Investigat­ors have heeded growing calls from Damond’s distraught family, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and members of the Minneapoli­s community to release new informatio­n about the 40-year-old’s disturbing death.

But Officer Mohamed Noor, who fired the fatal shot into Damond’s stomach, is refusing to be interviewe­d by investigat­ors and has given no indication he will.

‘‘We cannot compel officer Noor to make a statement,’’ a frustrated Minneapoli­s mayor Betsy Hodges said yesterday. ’’I wish we could.’’

Noor’s partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, told Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehensi­on (BCA) yesterday he was driving the police car when they entered an alley behind Damond’s home on Sunday. Damond had called the 911 emergency number after hearing a woman’s screams in what she believed could be a sexual assault.

‘‘As they reached West 51st Street, Officer Harrity indicated that he was startled by a loud sound near the squad [car],’’ the BCA said.

Harrity told the BCA that Damond approached the driver’s side window immediatel­y after the sound, and Noor shot her through the open driver’s side window.

The BCA has not explained what may have caused the startling noise, but another officer was heard during the police radio conversati­on after the shooting saying he believed ‘‘aerial fireworks’’ may have been let off in the area.

Harrity also said the officers saw a white man aged between 18 and 25 on a bicycle at the scene, who watched as the officers provided medical assistance to Damond, the BCA said.

‘‘I would implore the person to come forward,’’ Hodges said.

Turnbull said yesterday Australia also wanted answers.

‘‘It is inexplicab­le ... how can a woman out in the street in her pyjamas seeking assistance from the police be shot like that? It is a shocking killing.’’

As Turnbull offered his condolence­s, Damond’s parents, brother and about 200 friends held a dawn vigil at Freshwater Beach in Sydney, where she lived before moving to the US.

Pink flowers were cast into the ocean after the family had released a statement saying they held the vigil ‘‘to honour her life, share our love and mourn her death’’.

She was to marry her American fiance Don Damond next month.

– AAP

 ??  ?? Justine Damond
Justine Damond

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