MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Shortly before she was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer, Justine Damond made two 911 calls to help a nearby woman she thought was possibly being sexually assaulted, according to transcripts released on Wednesday by police.
The death of Australian native Damond from a single gunshot has sparked outrage among family members and the public, and led Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to call it “shocking” and “inexplicable.”
In the 911 calls, Damond reported hearing sounds of a woman screaming.
“I can hear someone out the back and I, I‘m not sure if she’s having sex or being raped,” she told the 911 operator on the call at 11:27 pm. “And I think she just yelled out ‘help’.”
Damond called again at 11:35 pm, and was assured officers were on the way.
The transcripts were released as Minnesota investigators continued to search for a potential witness spotted near the scene of the shooting, hoping he may shed light on the shooting.
Just before Damond, a Sydney native, was shot through a patrol car window by an officer before midnight Saturday, officers spotted an 18-to-25-year-old white male bicycling in the area, according to investigators who interviewed one officer.
As officers provided medical assistance to Damond, shot in the abdomen, the man stopped at the scene and watched, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said late Tuesday. Officials did not respond Wednesday to requests for further detail.
In a transcript of Minneapolis police scanner traffic posted by the Star Tribune, a police dispatcher said, “Female screaming behind the building.” That is what Damond reported to 911 when she called.
An unidentified officer responded shots were fired and requested an ambulance, according to the transcript posted by the newspaper. “We got one down,” the officer said.
On the night of the shooting, officers Mohamed Noor and Matthew Harrity were driving through an alley searching for a suspect in the reported assault, the bureau said.
At one point, Harrity told investigators he was startled by a loud sound near the patrol car. Immediately afterward, Damond approached the driver’s side of the squad car and Noor, who was in the passenger seat, fired his weapon through the open driver‘s-side window, striking Damond, the agency said.
Agents interviewed Harrity Tuesday but Noor has declined to be interviewed. Noor’s lawyer, Tom Plunkett, could not be reached Wednesday to comment.
Harrity’s attorney, Fred Bruno, told the Star Tribune Wednesday “it’s certainly reasonable” for the officers to fear they could be the target of a possible ambush. Bruno could not be reached for comment by Reuters.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has ruled the shooting a homicide. A spokeswoman for the office declined to say whether it still has the body or on funeral plans.
Damond’s relatives could not be reached for comment.
Damond, who was also known as Justine Ruszczyk, had taken the name of her fiance, Don Damond, ahead of their wedding. They were due to be married in August.
Writing and reporting by Chris Kenning Additional reporting by Julia Jacobs; Editing by James Dalgleish