News World Justine Damond’s family wants her body returned to Australia

Justine Damond’s family wants her body returned to Australia

Justine Damond
Minnesota's Somali community is afraid after Justine Damond's shooting. Photo: Instagram
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Justine Damond’s family say they want to bring her home to Australia for a farewell among family and friends amid warnings the investigation into her death could take months.

Ms Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, was shot in the US city of Minneapolis by police officer Mohamed Noor last week in an alleyway after he responded to her 911 call.

She had heard a possible assault taking place behind her home in Minneapolis, and was reportedly in her pyjamas when she was shot multiple times.

In a statement, Ms Damond’s family, based in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, thanked the public and the media for their interest in the “story of our beloved Justine, whom we lost so tragically last weekend”.

“All we want to do is bring Justine home to Australia to farewell her in her hometown among family and friends.”

“In the meantime, we ask that you give us time to grieve in private and to support each other at this very difficult time.”

The plea comes as Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for Minnesota’s Hennepin County attorney’s office, told CNN it could take two to four months before the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) concludes its investigation.

Once that happens, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman — not a grand jury — will decide whether either of the two officers involved should be charged in Ruszczyk’s death, Mr Laszewski said.

Ms Damond, 40, a spiritual healer and life coach who was due to marry Minneapolis local Don Damond next month, had moved to the United States in 2015.

Her family on Thursday hired high-profile US lawyer Robert Bennett to represent it in a possible civil suit over the shooting.

Mr Bennett, who represented the family of shooting victim Philando Castile, has dismissed claims that Officer Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity feared an ambush when Ms Damond was shot.

Mr Castile was shot dead in July last year by a Minnesota police officer while his girlfriend live-streamed the incident on Facebook. The officer, Jeronimo Yanex, was acquitted last month but was stood down.

Mr Bennett won Mr Castile’s family a US$2.995 million (AU$3.76 million) lawsuit.

Robert Bennett’s CBS interview

Ms Damond’s family released a statement on Thursday, saying they would speak out publicly again when the time was right.

“We are still trying to come to terms with this tragedy and we are struggling to understand how and why this could happen,” the family’s statement said.

“These are very early days and the family, in Australia and in the USA, are devastated by our loss.

“We are in constant contact with the Australian Government, and representatives of the US Government and Minnesota State authorities.
A timeline of events

Transcripts of 911 calls, police radio tapes, and a police incident report help paint a picture of what happened the night Justine Damond was shot dead by police.

“We want to see the investigation come to a conclusion, as soon as possible, so we have some resolution to the tragedy.”

So far, little information has been released by the local police department about the shooting, and the matter is being investigated by a state body known as the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The transcript of Ms Damond’s 911 calls show she phoned emergency services twice over concerns that a woman was being raped in the alley behind her home.

Unlike previous police shootings, there is no video evidence of the incident because Mr Noor did not have his body camera on.

Mr Noor has declined to be interviewed by investigators and has not responded to media interview requests.

– With ABC

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