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Minneapolis police chief steps down amid uproar over Australian woman's death

Minneapolis' police chief has resigned less than a week after a police officer shot dead an unarmed Australian woman in the city. Protesters took to the streets on Friday, demanding the city's mayor to step down as well.

Janee Harteau tendered her resignation on Friday at the request of the Midwestern US city's mayor, Betsy Hodges.

"Last Saturday's tragedy, as well as some other recent incidents, has caused me to engage in deep reflection," Harteau said in a statement posted to the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Facebook page.

The move ended Harteau's four-and-a-half-year run as the first woman and first openly gay head of the Minneapolis police.

"Despite the MPD's many accomplishments under me leadership over these years and my love for the city, I have to put the communities we serve first," Harteau added.

"I've decided I am willing to step aside to let a fresh set of leadership eyes see what more can be done fort he MPD to the very best it can be," Harteau wrote.

Read: US police chief: Australian Justine Damond didn't have to die

USA Justine Damond in New York (Reuters/Stephen Govel Photography)

Justine Damond was originally from Sydney

'Shocking' and 'inexplicable'

Harteau was under fire for the fatal shooting of Justine Damond, an Australian woman, by one of her junior officers. Damond died shortly after making an emergency call about a sexual assault.

Police officers Mohamed Noor and Matthew Harrity had been driving through an alley, searching for a suspect after Damond reported hearing sounds of a sexual assault taking place.

Harrity told investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension he had heard a loud sound near the patrol car. Immediately after that, Damond - who was unarmed - had approached the driver's side of the car.

Noor, sat in the passenger seat, fired his weapon through the open driver's-side window, the bureau said.

Damond died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen, according to preliminary investigations.

Damond's killing has outraged her relatives and the Australian public. The country's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called it "shocking" and "inexplicable."

'Cosmetic change'

Protesters in Minneapolis are also demanding the resignation of Mayor Betsy Hodges. The mayor had to postpone a news conference at City Hall on Friday as protesters disrupted the event.

"I've lost confidence in the Chief's ability to lead us further," Hodges said in a statement on Twitter. "For us to continue to transform policing - a community trust in policing - we need a new leadership at MPD," she said.

"In conversation with the chief today, she and I agreed that she would step aside to make way for new leadership. I asked chief Harteau for her resignation, she tendered it and I have accepted it," Hodges added.

The mayor announced the nomination of Assistant Police Chief Medaria Arradondo as Harteau's replacement.

But Harteau's resignation is not enough to quell uproar in the city.

"We're not buying this," said one of the protesters. "This is just a cosmetic change, and we want institutional change."

"We don't want you as the mayor of Minneapolis anymore," another protester said. "You're ineffective as a leader."

Family's plea for justice

Damond, who was originally from Sydney, had lived in the US for three years and was set to marry her fiancé Don Damond next month. She had already begun using her married name.

Her father John Ruszczyk told an Australian news conference that his daughter was "a beacon to all of us."

"We only ask that the light of justice shine down on the circumstances of her death," he said.

The agency investigating the incident said it was now seeking any civilian video of the incident. Noor and his partner Harrity have both been placed on administrative leave.

Damond's case is the latest high-profile police shooting in the US, with most others involving victims who were African-American.

Watch video 02:20

Australian woman shot by Minneapolis police

shs/tj (AFP, dpa)

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