Another day, another shooting of an unarmed person by US police, but this story may play out a bit differently. The deceased was a white, blonde Australian woman and the officer who allegedly fired the fatal shot? A Black man.
Sources say Justine Damond, a 40-year-old yoga teacher and graduate of the University of Sydney, was fatally shot in Minneapolis on Saturday after she called to report “a possible assault” near her home. According to reports, two officers responded to the 911 call and pulled into an alley near Washburn Avenue S. around 11:30 p.m. Damond approached the police vehicle in her pajamas to speak to the driver, but was struck dead when the passenger pulled out his gun and shot her through the driver’s door.
That officer was Mohamed Noor, the first Somali police officer to patrol the 5th precinct in southwest Minneapolis, reports Minneapolis StarTribune.
“Basically, my mom’s dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know,” Damond’s stepson, Zach, said in a Facebook live video shared by Women’s March Minnesota. “I demand answers. If anybody can help, just call the police and demand answers. I’m so done with all this violence. It’s so much bullshit. America sucks. These cops need to get trained differently.”
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs released a statement on behalf of Damond’s family on Monday: “This is a very difficult time for our family. We are trying to come to terms with this tragedy and to understand why this has happened.”
Nekima Levy-Pounds, a Minneapolis civil rights attorney and activist who was involved in the protests against the police killings of Jamar Clarke and Philando Castile, called the fatal shooting of Damond another example of a “flawed system of policing.”
“We stand with the people of Australia in demanding justice for Justine Damond,” Levy-Pounds told The Guardian. “Her death could have been prevented. Were it not for the increasing militarisation of US police forces, she would still be alive today.”
So now what? In a deviation from the harrowing norm, an unarmed white woman was fatally shot by cops. She was in her pajamas. Per all accounts at this point, she was not threatening the police, she was not violent, and she was calling for help. Will this be the catalyst that sparks international scrutiny of America’s erroneous police practices? Or will the epidemic continue to go unchecked?