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911 Transcript Of Woman Killed By Minneapolis Police Made Public

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So we are learning more about what happened last weekend when police in Minneapolis shot and killed an Australian woman. Justine Ruszczyk, also known by her fiance's last name, Damond, was shot as she approached the officer's car. She had called 911 to report what she believed might be a rape taking place behind her home. Brandt Williams from Minnesota Public Radio has the latest.

BRANDT WILLIAMS, BYLINE: Transcripts released yesterday by the Minneapolis Police Department show that at 11:27 p.m., Ruszczyk told the 911 operator she thought she heard a woman call out for help. But she wasn't sure. According to the transcript, Ruszczyk said, quote, "it sounds like sex noises. But it's been going on for a while, and I think she tried to say help. And it sounds distressed." Ruszczyk called back at 11:35 to report she heard screaming. According to the medical examiner, a little more than 15 minutes later Ruszczyk died from a single gunshot wound to her abdomen. Minneapolis City officials say the transcripts were released with the approval of the State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, or the BCA, which is conducting an independent investigation. In a press conference held before the release of the transcripts, Mayor Betsy Hodges welcomed any information that sheds light on the shooting.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BETSY HODGES: This is an awful and tragic situation that is baffling to many. And everyone shares the same questions. What happened? How is it that Justine is dead?

WILLIAMS: The BCA has released a few more details about the shooting, but they may not answer those questions. According to investigators, Officer Matthew Harrity and his partner Mohamed Noor responded to the call. Harrity has told investigators he heard a loud noise near the squad car just before Ruszczyk approached the driver's side. He said that's when Noor fired the fatal shot from the passenger seat. Noor has so far refused to speak to investigators. Neither officer turned on their body cameras before the shooting. Both of them are on standard administrative leave.

Police officials have declined to comment on the details of the shooting released by the BCA, but they say the department is conducting an internal use-of-force review. Earlier this week, Ruszczyk's friends and neighbors gathered near her home. Many of them expressed shock, grief and fear.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BETHANY BRADLEY: As a woman who's had to call the police and has three small, tiny children in the house, this could have been me.

WILLIAMS: Bethany Bradley says she lives several blocks from the scene of the shooting.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRADLEY: If I had stepped outside to go meet them, would I have been shot? This is unacceptable.

WILLIAMS: One of the questions people want answered is why there's no video from the officer's body cameras or their squad car. The force started equipping officers with cameras last year. Officers are required to activate their cameras in more than a dozen situations, including whenever they use force. Assistant Police Chief Medaria Arradondo says the policy which governs camera use is under review.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MEDARIA ARRADONDO: While I cannot talk directly about the officer-involved shooting incident, I can tell you we began looking at areas to strengthen our policy several months ago.

WILLIAMS: Arradondo didn't offer details but said Chief Janee Harteau will soon be releasing an updated policy. He added that all police policies are subject to review. Ruszczyk's fiance, Don Damond, has confirmed that he's contacted a lawyer. That lawyer, Bob Bennett, recently negotiated a nearly $3 million settlement over the death of Philando Castile, the motorist shot and killed by a St. Anthony police officer last year. For NPR News, I'm Brandt Williams in Minneapolis.

(SOUNDBITE OF AARKTICA'S "OUT TO SEA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.