The family of Justine Damond, the Australian woman shot to death by a Minneapolis police officer, has hired the high-profile US lawyer who represented the family of black motorist Philando Castile, who was also slain by a local policeman.
Attorney Bob Bennett confirmed Thursday to The Associated Press that he was representing the family of the yoga instructor who died Saturday night shortly after reporting a possible sexual assault in progress in an alley behind her home. He has represented a number of police shooting victims’ families and most notably achieved a nearly $3 million settlement for the family of Philando Castile from the St. Paul, Minnesota, suburb of St. Anthony.
According to him, Damond’s family in Australia is in disbelief. The victim, who was in her pajamas at the time of the shooting, clearly did not pose a threat to the officers.
“It’s quite clearly an improper use of deadly force on someone who it is impossible for me to conceive of as a threat to anyone,” Bennett said Thursday. “I mean she saves ducklings out of the sewer, for God’s sakes.”
Bennett also strongly disputed the assumption that the officers might reasonably have feared an ambush, saying it’s “ludicrous” and “disinformation. It doesn’t have any basis in fact.”
Justine Damond Shooting Ruled A Homicide
Damond’s death from a single gunshot to the abdomen has sparked outrage among family members and the public both in Australia and the United States. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called it “shocking” and “inexplicable.”
Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor, who fired the shot that killed Damond, has refused to be interviewed, but he will have to give a statement as part of his department’s internal investigation. In a statement Noor released through his attorney, he expressed his condolences to the family and declined to discuss the incident.
Bennett said Damond’s relatives are now seeking a transparent investigation, body camera policy reform and changes in how officers are trained and selected. He added that they also demand swift discipline — including possible termination — for Noor.
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