The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Australian woman fatally shot by Minneapolis police called 911 twice to report hearing a possible rape

Justine Damond, 40 was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer. Here's what you need to know. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

The Australian woman fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer over the weekend twice called 911 in the minutes before her death to summon officers to a possible rape near her home, according to police records released on Wednesday.

Relatives of the woman — Justine Damond, 40 — had previously said she called 911 late Saturday night to report “what she believed was an active sexual assault occurring nearby.” The 911 records, along with incident reports and other documents, shed further light on the minutes before an officer shot and killed Damond, a deadly encounter that remains cloaked in mystery and has provoked international outrage.

Damond first called 911 at 11:27 p.m. on Saturday to report that she could hear a woman near her home either having sex or being raped, the records showed.

“I think she just yelled out ‘help,’ but it’s difficult,” Damond said, according to a police transcript of the call. Damond later added that while it was not fully clear, the woman she could hear sounded “distressed.”

Minneapolis police fatally shot Australian woman after hearing ‘loud sound,’ investigators say

Damond was told police were on their way and would arrive soon after the call. Eight minutes later, police say, she called 911 again because “no one’s here” and she was “wondering if they got the address wrong.” Damond said she could still hear a woman screaming and again was told officers were on their way.

Exactly what happened next remains unclear. There is no video footage of the shooting, investigators said, because neither officer activated their body cameras until afterward. The police car’s camera also was not recording, officials said.

According to state investigators, one of the two officers who responded to Damond’s call said they had arrived in a squad car and were driving in the area when an unspecified loud noise startled him.

Matthew Harrity, the officer who was driving, told investigators on Tuesday that immediately after the noise startled him, Damond approached his car window. Officer Mohamed Noor, who was in the passenger seat, fired through the open window, according to Harrity, hitting Damond in the abdomen and killing her.

No weapons were found at the scene. Authorities found a cellphone near where Damond fell, investigators said.

An incident report released Wednesday shows that the two officers arrived on the scene at 11:37 p.m., two minutes after Damond’s second 911 call. Four minutes later, another incident report states, a shooting incident was reported. “ONE DOWN … STARTING CPR,” the report says, alongside a time stamp of 11:41 p.m.

The medical examiner’s office said that Damond was pronounced dead 10 minutes later. Her death was ruled a homicide.

The shooting highlights the limitations of police body cameras

Noor’s account of the shooting has not been made public. The officer has declined to be interviewed as part of the investigation, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), the state agency investigating the shooting. Officials say there is no way for them to force Noor to speak to interviewers, and the BCA statement said that the officer’s attorney “did not provide clarification on when, if ever, an interview would be possible.”

Thomas C. Plunkett, an attorney representing Noor, did not respond to messages seeking comment. In a statement earlier this week, Plunkett said that Noor, who came to the United States when he was young, takes the shooting very seriously.

“He takes these events very seriously because, for him, being a police officer is a calling,” Plunkett said. “He joined the police force to serve the community and to protect the people he serves. Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves and he empathizes with the loss others are experiencing.”

Police records released Wednesday indicate that Noor, who joined the force in 2015, has been the subject of three complaints. Two of them remain open, while the third was closed without discipline. The records do not elaborate on the type of allegation. Harrity, who joined the department last year, also is the subject of an open complaint, the records showed.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, in a Facebook posting last year, singled out Noor as “the newest Somali officer in the Minneapolis Police Department.”

“Officer Noor has been assigned to the 5th Precinct, where his arrival has been highly celebrated, particularly by the Somali community in and around Karmel Mall,” Hodges wrote. “The community even hosted a meet and greet event … to welcome him. A wonderful sign of building trust and community policing at work.”

Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no.

Hodges and Janeé Harteau, the police chief, have echoed public calls for more information about the shooting.

“We all want answers,” Hodges said during a briefing late Tuesday, after Harrity’s account was made public. “We all want to see justice done.”

Hodges said that even with Harrity’s account providing a first glipse at what might have happened Saturday night, it was “frustrating to have some of the picture but not all of it.” She also acknowledged that Noor could not be forced to speak to investigators, adding that he could potentially provide key answers about what happened.

“There are big questions left that we still have and that we hope to have answered soon,” Hodges said. “Why did Officer Noor draw and fire his gun? What happened from the time the officers arrived on the scene to when she was pronounced dead? Why don’t we have footage from body cameras? Why were they not activated? We all want answers to those questions.”

Harteau, the police chief, released a statement earlier this week saying she understands why so many people have so many questions, adding: “I have many of the same questions.”

Damond’s death has continued to resonate in Australia, where hundreds gathered in Sydney to mourn for her on Wednesday morning. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called it “a shocking killing” and said Australian officials are seeking closure for her family.

“We are demanding answers on behalf of her family, and our hearts go out to her family and all of her friends and loved ones,” Turnbull said in a television interview. “It’s a truly tragic, tragic killing … something clearly went tragically wrong.”

Further reading:

The Washington Post’s database of police shootings

‘AMERICAN NIGHTMARE’: Australians react to fatal police shooting in ‘very risky’ United States

After Minneapolis police officer fatally shoots Australian woman, her relatives plead for answers

Prosecutors won’t seek third trial for former Ohio police officer who shot Samuel DuBose