US police chief: Australian Justine Damond didn′t have to die | News | DW | 21.07.2017
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US police chief: Australian Justine Damond didn't have to die

The police chief of the US city of Minneapolis has criticized the fatal shooting of an Australian woman by one of her junior officers. Justine Damond died shortly after making an emergency call about a sexual assault.

In her first news conference about the shooting, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau on Thursday apologized to Justine Damond's fiance for the loss of life.

Describing how Damond - from Sydney, Australia - was killed by "one individual's actions," Harteau said that she "didn't have to die."

Training defended

She said the action taken by the police officer who fired the fatal shot "goes against who we are as a department, how we train, and the expectations we have for our officers."

Watch video 02:20

Australian woman shot by Minneapolis police

Harteau admitted there is no known video footage of the shooting, as the body cameras of the two officers on the scene did not activate.

"I will do everything in my power to make sure that due process is followed and justice is served," she vowed.

Forty-year-old Damond died on Saturday night from a single gunshot wound to the abdomen fired through an open window of a patrol car.

Damond, who moved to the US to marry her fiance Don Damond, had called police about a possible sexual assault in her neighborhood just before midnight.

Loud bang?

Investigators have said one of the responding officers, Matthew Harrity, described being startled by a loud noise just before Damond approached the police car he was driving.

His partner Mohamed Noor, who was in the passenger seat, shot Damond and she died at the scene, authorities said. 

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

Her family's lawyer Bob Bennett said in a statement on Thursday it was clear Noor had overreacted.

"Usually people who call the police in their pyjamas are not ambushers, especially spiritual healers and pacifists," Bennett said of Damond, who owned a meditation and life-coaching company.

He later told the local CBS TV station in Minneapolis, "She obviously was not armed, she was not a threat to anyone nor could she have reasonably been perceived to be."

He said the family would wait until officials complete their investigation before deciding whether to file a civil lawsuit.

Officer remains silent

Noor, a Somali-American, has refused to be interviewed by investigators. He has expressed condolences to the Damond family in a statement through his lawyers, but declined to discuss the shooting.

Harteau told reporters she would prefer Noor to speak about the incident. "There are questions that need to be answered and he is the only one who has those answers," she said.

mm/bk (AFP, Reuters) 

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