A Minneapolis yoga teacher who called police Saturday night to report a disturbance near her house was fatally shot by an officer who, according to eyewitness reports, didn’t even get out of the car. Minneapolis’s mayor told media outlets that while both officers involved in the shooting of Justine Damond had on body cameras, they were not turned on.
The shooting of Damond, who was 40 and a native of Australia, is as baffling as it is sudden. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said the two officers were responding to a 911 call regarding a possible assault. Eyewitnesses say Damond approached the police car in her pajamas and was shot through the door, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Three sources with knowledge of the incident said Sunday that two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley. Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, sources said. No weapon was found at the scene.
According to be reports, Damond studied veterinary medicine in Sydney before moving to Minnesota three years ago to be with her fiancé Dan, who she was set to marry next month, and whose last name she had taken. According to her website, she offered yoga and meditation classes in the Minneapolis area as well as personal development and life coaching services.
Damond’s stepson Zach posted a video to the Women’s March Minnesota Facebook page in which he says, “Basically, my mom’s dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know. I demand answers. If anybody can help, just call the police and demand answers. I’m so done with all this violence. It’s so much bullshit. America sucks. These cops need to get trained differently.”
Zach says in the video that she thought “something bad was happening” and so called the police. “The next thing I know they take my best friend’s life.”
In their statement, the Minneapolis PD acknowledges that “at some point” someone was shot, but that the cameras in the squad car were also not turned on.
Minneapolis police began wearing body cameras exactly a year ago, and department policy says they are supposed to have them turned on whenever they “reasonably anticipate that they may become involved in a situation for which activation is appropriate in accordance with this policy.” A 911 call certainly seems to qualify, although the officers will likely argue otherwise.
The shooting of a white Australian is likely to provoke a very different public and police response than the many, many killings of unarmed black Americans by police in the last few years. CNN reports that Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to the Damond family. The two officers in the incident have been placed on paid administrative leave, while Minneapolis police are pledging a speedy investigation into the incident.