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Sydney woman was ‘in pyjamas’ when shot dead by US police

17 July 2017 7:58 AM
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Australian woman Justine Ruszczyk was in her pyjamas when she was shot dead by a police officer responding to her 911 call in Minneapolis, US media has reported.

Ms Ruszczyk, a trained veterinarian, motivational healer and meditation teacher from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, called for help after hearing a noise in an alley near her Minneapolis home.

Sources told The Star Tribune two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley around 11.30pm Saturday (local time).

Ms Ruszczyk, in her pyjamas, reportedly went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driving officer.

The officer in the passenger seat drew his gun and shot the 40-year-old through the driver’s side door, the newspaper reported.

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement the "officers' body cameras were not turned on at the time and the squad camera did not capture the incident".

Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges said she intended to find out why the officers' body cameras were not turned on.

"As mayor of our city, a wife, and a grandmother, I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by what occurred last night," she posted on Facebook.

The Minnesota Public Safety Department earlier confirmed said a woman was shot after two officers responded to a callout about a possible assault.

A family friend read a statement on behalf of the Ruszczyks in Sydney earlier today.

"This is a very difficult time for the Ruszczyk family," the statement read.

"They are trying to come to terms with this tragedy and to understand why this has happened.

"She will undoubtedly be very missed by the family, she was treasured and loved and we will really miss her."

Ms Ruszczyk's death has angered her Minneapolis community after it was revealed the officers didn't have their body cameras turned on.

Her soon-to-be stepson, Zack Damond, arrived at the scene on Sunday morning local time demanding answers, according to The Star Tribune.

"Basically, my mum is dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don't know," the 22-year-old said in video posted to Facebook.

"I demand answers. If anybody can help, just call the police and demand answers. I'm so done with all this violence.

"I just know 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, she probably thought something bad was happening and then next thing I know they take my best friend's life."

According to her Facebook page, Ms Ruszczyk attended Manly High School and the University of Sydney.

Her personal website says she trained as a veterinarian and practised yoga and meditation for 17 years.

Neighbours have been filmed coming together at the scene to pay tribute to Ms Ruszczyk and voice their anger.

One woman, identified only as Bethany from Women's March Minnesota, said she lived in the neighbourhood and described Ms Ruszczyk as a "beautiful light".

"She was a healer, she was loved and she should be alive. She should still be here," she said.

"It's still raw and it's painful. And I need to say again that Justine should be here. This should not have happened.

"I should not have held her crying son in my arms this morning. And no one’s saying anything. And that could have been me, that could have been you, that could have been you, that could have been any of us and we are going to make sure this doesn’t happen again."

Ms Ruszczyk ran her meditation workshops at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, which paid tribute in a Facebook post.

"We are so sad to report the tragic shooting of Justine Damond," the community's post said.

"Justine was one of the most loving people you would ever meet. We can't even imagine LHSC without her."


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