UPDATE 5-Unused body cameras raise questions in Minneapolis police shooting

(Adds comments from victim's fiance)

MINNEAPOLIS, July 17 (Reuters) - Authorities and activists on Monday questioned why Minneapolis police who fatally shot an Australian woman over the weekend did not have their body cameras turned on during the incident.

Justine Damond's American fiance also wondered about the details of how she was shot. She had called the police to report a suspected sexual assault near her home, Don Damond told reporters outside his home.

"We lost the dearest of people and we are desperate for information," Damond said. "Piecing together Justine's last moments before the homicide would be a small comfort as we grieve this tragedy."

Also known as Justine Ruszczyk, she had already taken Damond's last name.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota called for answers on why responding officers failed to turn on their body cameras when they arrived at Damond's home 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 called Damond's death "tragic" in a statement on Monday and promised a "transparent" investigation.

Hundreds took to the streets of Minneapolis on 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 ACLU of 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 interim executive director, Teresa Nelson, said the officers failed to obey department rules by not having their body cameras on.

Damond owned a meditation and life-coaching company, according to her personal website. Media gave her age as 40.

Both officers have been placed on administrative leave, the state BCA said. Minneapolis police referred further questions about the incident to the BCA. (Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Chris Michaud in New York, writing by Gina Cherelus; editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)

07/17/2017 17:46

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