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Here's What We Know And Don't Know About The Mysterious Police Shooting Of An Australian Bride-To-Be

Minneapolis officials have left several questions unanswered about why Justine Damond was fatally shot by an officer after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault.

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Updated on

The mysterious fatal shooting of an Australian bride-to-be by a Minnesota police officer has left her family, friends, and the public with unanswered questions about the circumstances.

Justine Ruszczyk, an Australian yoga instructor and spiritual healer who used the last name of her fiancé, Dan Damond, was fatally shot by Officer Mohamed Noor after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her house on Saturday night.

Her family and friends in Minnesota and Australia are frustrated by the lack of information from authorities about the mysterious circumstances that led Noor to fire his weapon at a pajama-clad Damond in the alley near her house.

Questions have also been raised about why the two officers' body cameras were not on during the incident.

In her 911 call — here are transcripts of the first and second calls — Damond said she heard a woman making "sex noises," but wasn't sure "if she’s having sex or being raped."

Police are not investigating her report of possible sexual assault, a police spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday. The officers canvassed the area and "did not find anything" that would lead the police to investigate further.

"This is an unbelievable situation that a person who called 911 is shot in her pajamas,” Bob Bennett, a Minneapolis attorney hired by Damond's family in Australia, told WCCO on Wednesday.

Bennett, who also represented the family of Philando Castile — a black man who was fatally shot by a Minnesota police officer — said that Damond's family hired him because they want justice and changes in police protocols.

“She obviously was not armed, she was not a threat to anyone nor could she have reasonably been perceived to be,” he told WCCO.

Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janeé Harteau have acknowledged people's frustration over the lack of information about the shooting. Harteau said she has asked for the investigation to be expedited to "provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can."

Harteau also appeared to distance herself from Noor's actions, saying, "These were the actions and judgement of one individual," adding, "I believe the actions in question go against who we are as a department."

She also said the she believed the body cameras should have been on at the time of the shooting.

Here's what we know about what happened on the night of July 16:

* At 11:27 p.m., Damond called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her house.

She told the 911 operator, "I can hear someone out the back and I, I’m not sure if she’s having sex or being raped." Damond said that the woman didn't sound like "she's enjoying it." She added, "It sounds like sex noises, but it’s been going on for a while and I think she tried to say help and it sounds distressed."

Her fiancé Dan Damond, who was out of town that night, advised her to call 911 after she told him over the phone about hearing the sounds, her family attorney, Bob Bennett told WCCO.

* Officer Matthew Harrity and Officer Mohamed Noor arrived at the scene around 10 minutes later.

Harrity, who has been with the police force for one year, was driving the squad car and Noor, who has been an officer for nearly two years, was in the passenger seat.

The squad car's lights were off and its camera was not turned on. Both officers' body cameras were not activated.

* As the two officers approached the street near Damond's house, Harrity told the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that he was "startled by a loud sound" near the squad car.

"Immediately afterward," Damond approached the driver's side window of the squad car, according to Harrity's account. She was in her pajamas, sources told the Star Tribune, and briefly spoke with Harrity.

Harrity said that Noor then fired his weapon across the car, striking Damond once in the abdomen through the open driver's side window.

* In an audio recording of a conversation between the two officers and a dispatcher, the dispatcher can be heard saying, "Female screaming behind the building."

One of the officers then calmly tells the dispatcher, "Shots fired...we got one down."

"The officers immediately exited the squad car and provided medical attention until medical personnel arrived," the BCA said in a press release on Tuesday.

Approximately 14 minutes elapsed between the time Damond called 911 and the officers informing the dispatcher that one person was shot, the incident report shows.

* Damond was declared dead at the scene at 11:51 p.m., according to the medical examiner's report.

* Crime scene personnel recovered a cell phone near Damond. No weapons were recovered.

* The police department is not investigating the possible sexual assault that Damond reported in her 911 call because the officers canvassed the area and "did not find anything that would lead" the police to investigate further, an MPD spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday.

Here's what we know about the investigations:

There are three investigations ongoing:

* The BCA is investigating the shooting, and has interviewed Harrity.

Noor has declined to be interviewed by the BCA and the agency cannot compel an officer's testimony. Noor’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, did not provide clarification on when, if ever, an interview would be possible, the BCA said.

* The MPD is conducting an internal investigation into the use of force by its police officer, and a review of whether body camera policies were violated.

* And the city's Police Conduct Oversight Commission has also initiated an inquiry into the shooting.

* All of the city's investigations remain on hold until state investigators complete theirs.

* Harrity and Noor were placed on standard administrative leave.

* Noor joined the MPD in March 2015 and was the first Somali-American police officer to be assigned to the 5th precinct, according to a city council member's newsletter.

* Noor's attorney, Tom Plunkett, released a statement saying Noor "extends his condolences to the family and anyone else who has been touched by this event. He takes their loss seriously and keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers."

* Plunkett said that Noor, who came to the US from Somalia at a young age, "takes these events very seriously because, for him, being a police officer is a calling." Plunkett added that they would like to say more and would in the future.

* Noor has two open complaints against him, and a third which was closed in 2016 without disciplinary action, according to public records from the Office of Police Conduct Review. State law prohibits the release of open complaints or complaints closed without discipline, an OPCR official told BuzzFeed News.

* Noor, along with two other law enforcement officials, was also sued in district court in June by Teresa Graham, a retired social worker, for allegedly violating her civil rights during an incident in May. The case is pending. His attorney for the suit, who is different from the attorney for the shooting, did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.

* Noor also fought for legal custody of his son in 2015, according to court records obtained by the Star Tribune.

Noor and the boy's mother met in college but never legally married, and separated when their son was three. In 2015, she tried to take him to New Jersey — but Noor fought against the move, and eventually the court decided that the boy should continue to live in Minnesota, the Star Tribune reported.

According to the case evaluator, Noor had a warm and loving relationship with his son and was patient with him, the Star Tribune reported.

And here's what we don't know about the shooting:

* What was the "loud noise" that startled Officer Harrity while the two officers approached the street near Damond's house?

* Why were both officers' body cameras not activated until after the shooting, and why was the squad camera not turned on?

* Why did Damond approach the driver's side of the squad car and what did she say to Harrity before Noor fired his weapon?

* How much time elapsed between Damond first approaching the squad car and Noor firing his weapon?

* What prompted Noor to fire his weapon through the open driver's side window?

* How many shots did Noor fire?

* Why has Noor declined to be interviewed by the BCA?

Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com.

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