Australia Demands Answers on U.S. Police Killing

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — Australia has asked for answers about the police killing of its citizen Justine Damond in Minneapolis last weekend, and the Minnesota police officer accused of shooting her had three previous complaints filed against him, according to court records.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has identified the officer as Mohamed Noor. Noor joined the Minneapolis Police Department in March 2015 and was the first Somali officer for the Fifth Precinct. He’d graduated from Augsburg College in 2011 with a degree in business administration.

The shooting death of Justine Damond, identified by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office as Justine Maia Ruszczyk, sparked outrage and condemnation in her native continent, and its mother country, England.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the killing “shocking” and “inexplicable,” and said his diplomats are requesting answers from U.S. officials. The officers’ body cameras were not turned on until after Damond was shot.

Damond, a 40-year-old yoga instructor, was engaged to be married to U.S. citizen Don Damond, and already had taken his name, according to Australian and English news reports, which refer to her as Damond.

She was dressed in pajamas when she died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen, according to the Minnesota a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, or BCA.

According to the BCA’s preliminary investigation, Officers Matthew Harrity and Noor responded to a 911 call from Damond of a possible assault near her home in south Minneapolis shortly after 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

“The officers drove south through the alley between Washburn and Xerxes avenues toward West 51st Street in search of a suspect,” the BCA said in a statement. “All squad lights were off. As they reached West 51st Street, Officer Harrity indicated that he was startled by a loud sound near the squad. Immediately afterward Ruszczyk approached the driver’s side window of the squad. Harrity indicated that Officer Noor discharged his weapon, striking Ruszczyk through the open driver’s side window. The officers immediately exited the squad and provided medical attention until medical personnel arrived. Ruszczyk was pronounced dead at the scene.”

Both officers have been placed on administrative leave.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges told a news conference Tuesday night: “We cannot by law compel Officer Noor to make a statement. I wish that he would. I wish that he would because he has a story that only he can tell.”

Teresa M. Graham sued Noor and two other officers on June 27 in Hennepin County Court. The lawsuit was removed to Federal Court on July 14 — the day before Damond was killed.

Graham said that on May 25 Noor and two other officers “forced their way” into her house, “violently and forcibly detained her” and “transported her to a hospital against will.”

Graham said she had called 911 to “report “an unknown young male who was sitting on her retaining wall behind her house, smoking marijuana and [who] appeared to be under the influence of drugs.”

Graham said police “did not do anything” in response to her call, so she called the City of Minneapolis to follow up on the 911 call. According to her complaint, she received a phone call from Lt. Dan May, who told her that police had driven by her house that morning in response to the 911 call.

Graham says she also sent an email that same day to several city officials, including the mayor, police chief and her City Council representative, complaining about the lack of response to vulnerable adult reports she had filed in the illness and death of her sister in November 2016.

According to police reports, one of Graham’s relatives told she had “mental health issues,” the complaint states. At about 8 p.m. that evening, Officer Amanda Sanchez and Noor came to Graham’s house to perform a “welfare check,” according to the complaint.

Noor reported that the welfare check was in response to a request from an anonymous cousin. Officer Sanchez told Graham that a cousin had called and accused her of threatening him and his family. Subsequently, Sanchez turned on her body camera and told Graham that they came to find out if she was OK, and that a family member had called.

According to complaint, Graham called 911 two more times after the officers left.

The first call was about her encounter with Sanchez and Noor.

“Plaintiff indicated that she believed the police visit to be harassment, retaliatory for her prior complaint that morning, and ‘bizarre,’” the complaint states.

The second call was to “report concerns about her brother, a vulnerable adult with serious medical needs,” according to the complaint.

Then, Graham says, Officers Shannon Barnette, Sanchez and Noor came to her house.

“Defendant Officer Noor grabbed plaintiff’s phone from her hand and then grabbed her right wrist and upper arm, thereby immobilizing her,” the complaint states.

Graham says she spent over an hour in the hospital before she was released.

Barnette and Sanchez are the other two defendants in Graham’s lawsuit.

KARE-11 TV, an NBC station, reported that Noor has two open complaints against him, from 2016 and 2017.

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