Family of Australian woman killed by Minneapolis police hires lawyer -media

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 20, 2017 1:09 PM

By Todd Melby

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The family of the Australian woman fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer has hired an attorney who represented another police shooting victim in the state, local media reported on Thursday.

Justine Damond's family hired Bob Bennett, a lawyer who achieved a nearly $3 million settlement for the family of Philando Castile from the St. Paul, Minnesota, suburb of St. Anthony, according to WCCO-TV.

Bennett could not be reached for comment.

Damond's death from a single gunshot has sparked outrage among family members and the public in both countries. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called it "shocking" and "inexplicable."

Damond, 40, died of a single gunshot wound to the abdomen, fired through an open window of the patrol car, after two police officers responded to a call she made of a possible assault in her neighborhood, said the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the incident.

Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor, who fired the shot that killed Damond, has refused to be interviewed by the agency. His attorney released a statement in which Noor expressed condolences to the Damond family, but declined to discuss the incident.

Bennett, interviewed by the TV station, criticized the Minneapolis police.

“She obviously was not armed,” Bennett said to the television station of Damond. “She was not a threat to anyone, nor could she have reasonably been perceived to be.”

Bennett represented the family of Castile, a black motorist who was killed during a 2016 traffic stop. The officer who shot Castile was acquitted in a manslaughter trial in June.

Damond's death, the third at the hands of a Minnesota police officer in less than two years, also prompted comments by Michele Bachmann, a former Republican presidential candidate and U.S. representative from Minnesota.

Bachmann, speaking at a Republican hog roast in Waconia, Minnesota, on Wednesday, called Noor an "affirmative-action hire by the hijab-wearing mayor of Minneapolis," the Star Tribune reported. Noor is Somali-American.

However, Noor's ethnicity is irrelevant, said Abdirizak Bihi, director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis. "This is racism.

“It's shifting responsibility to a small, marginalized community rather than the city being responsible," Bihi added.

Damond’s death remains under investigation. There is no known video footage of the shooting. Both Noor and his partner had their body cameras turned off, investigators reported.

(Reporting by Todd Melby; Editing by David Gregorio)