US officer breaks his silence after Australian woman was shot from police car
The police officer who shot Australian woman Justine Damond has broken his silence, extending his sympathy to her grieving family.
In a statement released by his lawyer, officer Mohamed Noor said he had Damond's family in his "thoughts and prayers".
The statement released by lawyer Tom Plunkett came just after Damond's fiance Don Damond made an emotional appearance outside their Minneapolis, USA home, near where she was gunned down on Saturday night local time.
"Officer Noor extends his condolences to the family and anyone else who has been touched by this event," Plunkett said.
"He takes their loss seriously and keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers.
"He takes these events very seriously because for him being a police officer is a calling. He entered the police force to serve the community and to protect the people he serves.
"The current environment for police is difficult but Officer Noor accepts this as part of his calling.
"We would like to say more and will in the future. At this time however, there are several investigations that are ongoing. More importantly, Officer Noor wants to respect the privacy of the family and asks the same in return during this difficult period."
The statement comes after chilling audio emerged of the moments around the fatal US police shooting.
The officers are heard communicating with their dispatcher over the police radio, including calling for back-up and their attempts to perform CPR on Damond.
"Shots fired ... we have one down," one of the officers says.
Damond's death in the alley outside her Minneapolis home just before midnight on Saturday (US time) has devastated and outraged family, friends and left the Minneapolis community upset about the latest police shooting in their city.
"Our hearts are broken," her fiance Don Damond told media. "We've lost the dearest of people and are desperate for information.
"The death of Justine is a loss to everyone who knew her. She touched so many people with her loving and generous heart."
OFFICER JOINED FORCE TWO YEARS AGO
Officer Mohammed Noor, who joined the Minneapolis Police Department a little over two years ago, fired multiple shots at Sydney-raised Damond from the passenger seat of his vehicle.
He had little more than two years' experience on the force.
Noor's attorney Tom Plunkett confirmed his client fired at the 40-year-old Australian bride-to-be, according to Minneapolis TV station WCCO.
Damond, a spiritual healer and meditation coach, called police just before midnight on Saturday after hearing a possible assault taking place in an alley behind her Minneapolis home and was in her pyjamas when she approached Noor's police vehicle.
Noor, the first Somali-American officer at Minneapolis' 5th Precinct, was in the passenger seat and fired multiple times across his partner at Damond, another Minneapolis TV station, KSTP, reported.
A mobile phone was reportedly found near Damond's body.
The shooting has shattered Damond's family and friends in Australia and the US and outraged residents of Minneapolis and adjoining St Paul who are still reeling from other high-profile police shootings.
CAMERAS NOT TURNED ON
Noor and his partner's body cameras were not turned on and their police car dashboard camera did not capture the incident.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges told reporters she has "a lot of questions why the body cameras were not on".
"I know many of you are frustrated at the pace of information being released around Saturday night's shooting," Hodges wrote in a Monday Facebook posting. "I am too."
Damond's death is being investigated by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, not the Minneapolis Police Department.
Noor and his partner are on paid administrative leave.
A POSITIVE FORCE
Damond, formerly Justine Ruszczyk who took her American fiance Don Damond's surname before next month's planned wedding, moved to the US in 2015 and worked as a spiritual mentor in the Minneapolis area.
Her violent death was a shock to relatives, friends and colleagues who described her as a peaceful, calm and a positive force.
Damond's soon-to-be stepson, Zach Damond, is desperate for answers.
"My mum is dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don't know," the 22-year-old said. "America sucks. These cops need to get trained differently. I need to move out of here."
In a video posted to the Women's March Minnesota Facebook page, Zach Damond said his future stepmother had heard a sound in the alley so she called police "and the cops showed up".
"She was a very passionate woman, and she probably - she thought something bad is happening," he said. "Next thing I know, they take my best friend's life."
Another woman in the video, Bethany Bradley of Women's March Minnesota, said police were not being transparent or sharing information with the family. She also lives in the Fulton area.
Damond's family in Sydney has called for privacy.
"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," they said in a statement.
The incident has shone new light on police shootings in the US.
The Washington Post reported Damond is one of at least 524 people fatally shot by police in the US this year and and the fifth in Minnesota
The Minneapolis-St Paul area is still reeling from the acquittal last month of a police officer who shot dead a man, Philando Castile, during a traffic stop while Castile's girlfriend live streamed the horrifying incident.
Violent protests also flared after two officers fatally shot 24-year-old Jamar Clark in 2015 and were not charged.