New Details Surface In Minnesota Officer-Involved Shooting Of Australian Woman
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
In Minneapolis, an investigation continues in the police-involved shooting of Justine Ruszczyk. She also went by the name Justine Damond. Ruszczyk was fatally shot Saturday night after she had approached a squad car. The yoga instructor had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home. Yesterday, the city's police chief called Damond's death unnecessary.
Andy Mannix is covering this story for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and he joins me now. And, Andy, what other details have you learned about the shooting?
ANDY MANNIX: Well, so the basic chronology of events is Justine called 911 because she heard what she thought may be a sexual assault taking place, you know, a woman who appeared to be in trouble. The police officers arrive about eight minutes later, and the officer in the passenger seat fired his weapon through the driver's window. So you know, the bullet traveled sort of over the - over his partner from inside the police car and hit Justine in the stomach. And she died on the scene about 20 minutes later.
SIEGEL: Why isn't there video from police cameras, from police body cameras of this event?
MANNIX: That's a very good question, and a lot of people have that same question here, including the police chief, who was, you know, really critical yesterday of her officers for not turning on those body cameras. We have a relatively young body camera program here in the Minneapolis Police Department. The policy is a little bit unclear in some situations. However, you know, with this one, you're responding to a call. And certainly if you feel the need to have your firearm out, one would think that that would be a situation where you're going to want to put those body cameras on. That's what they're for.
SIEGEL: Justin Ruszczyk was 40 years old, engaged to be married and was using her partner's last name, Damond, hence the two names. She was a native of Australia. How much do we know about Mohamed Noor, the officer?
MANNIX: Not a whole lot. He's been on the force for about two years. He's one of about a handful of Somali officers on the Minneapolis police force. We have a large Somali population here in Minneapolis. He is a college graduate, 31 years old. You know, the police chief said that he did really well in training. There were no red flags.
SIEGEL: The neighborhood where it occurred - is it a high-crime, low-crime neighborhood?
MANNIX: It's a very low-crime neighborhood. South Minneapolis - it's called the Fulton neighborhood. It's very quiet. Shootings are extremely rare.
SIEGEL: And community reaction to the death of this woman?
MANNIX: Well, people are outraged, and they want some kind of explanation to make sense of it. The message of when you call 911, will the police officers show up and shoot you, is one that's very troubling.
SIEGEL: Since the cases that get the most attention - that have gotten the most attention have typically been white police officers and black shooting victims, is this case in which there is a Somali-American police officer and a white female victim - do you get the sense that it's being received very differently in the Minneapolis area?
MANNIX: Absolutely. And it's - you know, it's a delicate thing. You know, so, for example, Michele Bachmann, former Minnesota congresswoman and presidential candidate - she's out there making public statements, calling him an affirmative action hire and, you know, being really critical about this officer. There's definitely a layer of complication with the dynamic here. And I think that that's troubling to some people.
You know, we have a big Black Lives Matter presence here. We have a lot of civil rights activists here. Yeah, I think that the race element of it - it being a young, white woman, the officer being Somali and just sort of how people are reacting to that - I think a lot of people have really nuanced feelings about what that means.
SIEGEL: Andy Mannix, reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, thanks for talking with us today.
MANNIX: OK. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.