Australian PM demands answers in ‘inexplicable’ killing of Justine Ruszczyk
Australia’s prime minister has demanded answers to the “inexplicable” killing of an Australian-American woman shot by police in Minneapolis.
“This is a shocking killing. It is inexplicable,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Australian Channel 9’s “Today” program Wednesday, in his first public comments since Justine Ruszczyk’s death on Saturday.
“I mean, how can a woman out in the street in her pyjamas seeking assistance from the police be shot like that?” he said. “We are demanding answers, something clearly went tragically wrong.”
Ruszczyk had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home, her fiancé, Don Damond, said Monday.
Two police officers responded, and one of them, Mohamed Noor, shot her in the abdomen, killing her, according to police and an autopsy report.
Police have not explained how the shooting happened, leaving friends, family — and now the Australian government — demanding answers.
Australian friends and family gathered on a beach near Ruszczyk’s childhood home to honor the 40-year-old yoga teacher and spiritual healer in a silent vigil at dawn on Wednesday.
Around 200 friends and family gathered on Freshwater Beach in the northern Sydney suburbs as the sun rose, holding candles in silent memory of the Sydney native, according to CNN affiliate Seven News.
At 7 a.m. local time (5 p.m. ET), mourners silently laid her favorite pink flowers into the swell in a low key ceremony led by her father, John Ruszczyk, Australian media reported.
Members of community where she grew up, including former school friends, ex-colleagues and their families, attended the vigil. The community is still coming to terms with her unexpected death on the other side of the world.
In a press conference held by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, several Australian journalists probed officials about the experience and training of the officers involved, as well as deeper questions about the country’s gun and law enforcement cultures.
Seven News reporter Ashlee Mullany demanded to know why Ruszczyk’s family in Australia was being kept in the dark as to the progress of the investigation.
Hodges said that the victim’s father and brother would be informed when the independent body investigating the shooting had any information that it was able to release.
Another reported asked why two relatively inexperienced officers were responding to the call, and questioned the effectiveness of their training.
“Why do you have a law and order culture in this city where you have two rookie youngsters arrive in a patrol car late at night, with guns they don’t seem to know how to use?” asked Paul McGeough, chief foreign correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald, one of the country’s largest-circulation dailies and the hometown paper of Ruszczyk before she moved to the US.
Hodges admitted that the question spoke to the wider culture of policing in the US.
“We are in a country where people have guns but… these were two fully trained police officers,” she said.
“What I can say is that, even before we had an officer-involved shooting a couple of years ago, even before that, we as a city were doing everything we could to put a foundation of 21st century policing in place.”
In his televised interview, Turnbull said that Australian Consul-General Michael Wood, based in Chicago, is demanding answers of the Minneapolis city government.
“We are providing all the support we can, but this is… it seems inexplicable, but note, there will be some answers given in due course.
“At this point, it is a tragic loss, this young Australian woman and again, our hearts go out to her family with sorrow and with condolence and with love.”