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Unused body cameras raise questions in Minneapolis police shooting

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James displays a body-mounted camera during a news conference in New York, U.S. on August 21, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

MINNEAPOLIS - The probe into the fatal shooting of an Australian woman over the weekend by Minneapolis police who she called to report a strange noise behind her home turned on Monday to why the officers' body cameras were not on at the time.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and the American Civil Liberties Union called for answers on why responding officers failed to turn on their body cameras when they arrived at the home of Justine Damond in a quiet, upper-middle-class neighborhood shortly before midnight Saturday.

Police shot Damond, originally of Sydney, through the door of their patrol car as she approached them in an alley near her home, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported, citing three unnamed sources.

"I have a lot of questions about why the body cameras weren't on, questions that I hope and anticipate will be answered in the next few days," Hodges told reporters late Sunday.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau in a statement on Monday called Damond's death "tragic."

"I've asked for the investigation to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can," Harteau said.

Hundreds took to the streets of Minneapolis Sunday to protest Damond's shooting in a neighborhood dotted with brick and stucco houses, where violent crimes are relatively rare.

The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which reviews police-involved shootings in Minneapolis, said the dashboard camera in the officers' patrol car did not capture the shooting. The BCA is currently seeking any civilian video of the incident.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Minnesota called for the release of the audio from Damond's 911 call, along with any audio from the officers' dash camera. The group's executive director, Teresa Nelson, said the officers failed to obey department rules by not having their body cameras on.

Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, had taken the name of her American fiance, Don. She owned a meditation and life-coaching company, according to her personal website. Media gave her age as 40.

Zach Damond, who had begun calling his father's future bride "mom," told the Minneapolis Star Tribune she called the police because of a sound in the alley.

"My mom's dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don't know," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Both officers have been placed on administrative leave, the state BCA said. Minneapolis police referred questions about the incident to the BCA.

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