As slain Australian woman Justine Damond’s father choked back tears at a memorial service in Minneapolis, he told mourners she had been “ripped from our arms” and vowed he would fight for justice.
John Ruszczyk told the 1000-strong crowd of family, friends and community members gathered at Lake Harriet in southwest Minneapolis on Friday that at this time he was supposed to be on a plane to his daughter’s wedding.
“We should be walking down the street smiling and laughing,” he said of his first visit to Minneapolis. “But now every step on the footpath is very painful. I feel crushed by sorrow.”
“You have stolen my daughter and ripped her from my arms,” he said, referring to the officer who shot Ms Damond.
“Justine, my daughter, was killed by a bullet fired by an agent of the state. I don’t understand. I should have been on a plane to her wedding but we were flying to her funeral.”
Her fiance, Don Damond, 50, said it “felt like a privilege to love Justine” as they had been preparing to get married next week in Hawaii.
He read some of the uplifting messages Damond, a former Sydney vet, meditation teacher and corporate speaker, would write every morning and called her a “living example of self-mastery”.
“It felt like a privilege to love Justine, and I know those of you who love Justine probably feel that as well.
“I love her, I cherish her, I so adore her and I have immense gratitude for being the one she chose,” Don Damond said.
“In Australia, they call it ‘you’re punching above your weight.’ I really had to step up to be at her level.”
Justine Damond, 40, was shot and killed by Officer Mohamed Noor on July 15 after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home.
Hundreds of people, many wearing heart-shaped stickers, attended the memorial service. A banner above the band shell read, “Move from fear and survival to fascination and creation”.
An Australian flag stood prominently on the stage next to a large colour photo of Damond bordered in pink and white flowers.
Musician Johanna Morrow played the didgeridoo in what has been described as a ‘very Australian’ tribute.
Mr Ruszczyk said it was “wrong on every level” that his daughter died the way she did.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “I feel crushed.”
The search warrant shows that an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension requested permission to download data from the iPhones issued by the Minneapolis Police Department.
The application says the information “may more clearly define” the officers’ actions before and after Damond was killed.
A man at the back of the crowd held a sign that read, “NOOR RESIGN NOW”.
Noor’s partner told investigators a noise startled him just before Damond approached their police SUV.
Noor was in the passenger seat and shot Damond through the open driver-side window. He has declined to be interviewed by investigators, and cannot be compelled to do so.
Damond’s family has set up the Justine Damond Social Justice Fund, which will support causes important to her, including those promoting equal treatment for all.
— with ABC/AAP