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Australian woman killed in Minneapolis police shooting

| Monday, July 17, 2017, 6:51 a.m.

MINNEAPOLIS — Details about what led a Minneapolis police officer to fatally shoot an Australian woman remained unclear Monday, with authorities saying only that officers were responding to a 911 call about a possible assault when the woman was shot.

As authorities continued to investigate, the woman's family members released a statement Monday through Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, saying: “We are trying to come to terms with this tragedy and to understand why this has happened.”

Minneapolis authorities have not released the woman's name. The Star Tribune identified her as Justine Damond, 40, from Sydney, Australia. The newspaper reported that she was engaged to be married and had already taken her fiance's last name. Her maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released a statement Sunday saying two Minneapolis officers responded to the call late Saturday. At some point, an officer fired a weapon.

The Star Tribune, citing three people with knowledge of the shooting, said Damond had been the one to call 911 about a possible assault in the alley behind her house.

The three people, who were not identified by the newspaper, said two officers pulled into the alley in a single squad car. Damond, wearing pajamas, stood at the driver's side door and talked to the driver. The newspaper's sources said the officer in the passenger seat shot Damond through the driver's side door.

Police referred questions to the BCA. A spokeswoman for the agency did not return messages seeking to confirm that account.

Officials said the officers' body cameras were not turned on and that a squad car camera did not capture the shooting. Investigators were still trying to determine whether other video exists.

It's not clear why the officers' body cameras were not turned on. The department's policy allows for a range of situations in which officers are supposed to do so, including “any contact involving criminal activity” and before use of force. If a body camera is not turned on before use of force, it's supposed to be turned on as soon as it's safe to do so.

Some 50 friends and neighbors gathered in a semicircle Sunday afternoon near where Damond died, with many more looking on from the sidewalk and street. Chalk hearts were drawn on the driveway pad.

Damond had relocated to Minneapolis. Her website advertised services including personal health and life coaching, as well as workshops for businesses.

Zach Damond, 22, said she was engaged to marry his father, Don Damond, in August, although she had already taken his name.

“Basically, my mom's dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don't know,” Zach Damond said. “I demand answers.”

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges visited the scene, in a part of the city she once represented on the City Council. She said was “heartsick” and “deeply disturbed” by the shooting.

“There are still many questions about what took place, and while the investigation is still in its early stages, I am asking the BCA to release as much information, as quickly as they are able to,” she said in a statement Sunday.

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