Friends of Australian woman killed by US police struggle to comprehend her death
After devoting much of her adulthood to enriching the lives of people in Sydney, Justine Damond took her teachings overseas.
She joined the love of her life, Don Damond, in Minnesota in the US, where she committed her days to spiritual healing, mentoring and meditation coaching.
On Saturday night, in a dark alleyway in suburban Minneapolis, a police officer fired a gun and brought Justine Damond's life to an abrupt and traumatic end.
The 40-year-old's family and wide network of friends on Sydney's northern beaches have been left reeling. They struggle to comprehend how Damond became a victim in America's ongoing and controversial police shootings.
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"There is no way to convey the amount of goodness that was in her," close friend Eloise King said on Monday.
Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, was shot dead when two police officers responded to a 911 call about an assault in an alleyway just before midnight on Saturday (Sunday NZ Time).
Her stepson, Zach Damond, claimed on Facebook it was Damond who made the emergency call after hearing noises outside their Fulton home.
She went outside to investigate, reportedly in her pyjamas, before one police officer fired a weapon and killed the former Manly High School student.
Many unanswered questions surround the deadly shooting, including why that officer felt compelled to pull the trigger. The absence of footage from the officers' body worn and squad car cameras has fuelled the outrage.
"The officers' body cameras were not turned on at the time and the squad camera did not capture the incident," the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement.
"Investigators are attempting to determine whether any video of the incident exists."
Damond's death sparked an out pouring of grief in Minneapolis, where she lived with Zach and his father. The pair were due to marry next month.
A 200-person vigil was held near the family's home as the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, where Damond ran meditation workshops, remembered her as "one of the most loving people you would ever meet".
In Sydney, family friends visited the Freshwater home of Damond's parents on Monday.
"This is a very difficult time for our family," the Ruszczyk family said in a statement.
"We are trying to come to terms with this tragedy and to understand why this has happened."
In a statement to media outside Damond's parents' home, friend Julie Reed said Damond would be remembered for her energy and the "joy she brought to our lives".
The tragic news also trickled through Damond's circle of friends, who remembered her as an "infectious and loving" woman with "so much beauty".
"I know everyone thinks this when a loved one goes in any kind of manner but she was seriously one of the most beautiful people that has ever walked the face of the planet," King said.
"She was just infectious, not just for me. There are so many people that would talk about her in the same way.
"She was loving, giving, smart, funny and caring."
While she graduated from the University of Sydney in 2002 with a bachelor of veterinary science, Damond developed a lasting passion for neuroscience.
She also ran mentoring programs through Soul Sessions, now known as Souluversity, on the Northern Beaches, taught yoga and undertook volunteer work, including with the Westmead Children's Hospital.
She became enamoured with the work of neuroscientist Dr Joe Dispenza. It was at one of his workshops in the US where she met her fiance.
Damond returned to Australia but the pair developed a business coaching relationship.
Later, Don Damond declared his love for her, prompting her decision to move to America in 2015.
She continued her work in Minnesota, offering personal development and business consultation in spirituality.
"It was a difficult decision for her to make," King said.
"She was committed to love and the relationship that was there for her. It didn't take long for him to propose and for them to get their life started together."
Don Damond was out of town on a work trip when Damond was killed, returning to Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon.
The focus is now firmly on the investigation into the police shooting with Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges demanding to know why the officers' body cameras were off.
"We have few facts at this point," she said.
"I call on the BCA [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] to share as much information with all of us as quickly as they can."
Sydney Morning Herald