Meditation Instructor Killed by Police Under Strange Circumstances
Minneapolis police officer fatally shot a woman who called 911 because of a possible assault on Saturday, July 15. The facts of the incident are scarce and paint a strange picture.
On Saturday, shortly before 11:30 p.m., Justine Ruszczyk Damond, 40, called 911, reporting a possible assault just north of the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue South in Minneapolis, police stated in a release.
Two officers arrived on the scene and then, at some point, one of the officers shot and killed Damond. The officers wore body cameras, but they were off. The dash camera didn’t capture the incident.
Three sources “with knowledge of the incident” spoke to the Star Tribune. According to them, one police car with two officers arrived at the scene. Damond came to the car in her pajamas, stood by the driver’s window and talked to the officer in the driver’s seat. The officer in the passenger seat then shot Damond through the driver’s door. No weapon was found at the scene.
Minneapolis Police Department lists a number of situations where officers are required to activate their body cameras, like performing traffic stops, searches, observing crime, and getting into verbal or physical confrontations. During “[g]eneral citizen contacts,” officers can decide themselves whether to activate the cameras.
The department has a policy of not investigating serious incidents involving use of force by its own officers. Instead, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety handles the investigation.
The investigators have been scheduling interviews with the officers involved as of Monday and will release more information after the initial interviews. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave—a standard procedure in these kinds of situations.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office hasn’t yet released the results of Damond’s autopsy. “It could be at the end of the day,” the office’s representative stated in a July 17 email.
Damond was originally a veterinarian, but worked as a life coach and trainer of yoga and meditation. She was from Sydney, but moved to Minneapolis around 2015. She was about to marry her fiancé Don Damond and was already using his name.
Don Damond’s son Zach shared the few details he was aware of in a Facebook video:
“I just know that she heard a sound in the alley so then she called the police and the cops showed up and she was a very passionate woman and she probably … thought there’s something bad is happening and next thing I know they take my best friend’s life.”
About 200 people gathered on the scene of the shooting for a vigil on Sunday night.