Justine Ruszczyk, the Australian woman shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer after family members say she called 911 to report an assault, was a motivational healer about to be married.
She also went by the name Justine Damond professionally, taking the name of the man she was about to marry, Don Damond, who is vice president and manager of Little Six Casino in Minnesota.
The 40-year-old woman’s shooting was labeled “deeply disturbing” by the mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, who told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune that she was “heartsick” over the shooting.
The shooting unfolded on Saturday, July 15. It comes as tensions are still heightened over police shootings in Minnesota because of the recent acquittal of the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile in a traffic stop a year ago.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ruszczyk Had called 911 to Report an Alley Assault, Family Members Say
One of the details that is troubling people close to Justine most is that family members say she is the person who called police in the first place, and it was to report a crime.
According to The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, family members said she “called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley Saturday night.”
Police haven’t released many details about what happened leading up to Justine being fatally shot by a police officer. “Two Minneapolis police officers responded to a 911 call of a possible assault just north of the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue S. just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday,” the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a news release. “At one point, an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman.”
That woman was Justine Ruszczyk, whom many in the meditation community knew as Justine Damond.
2. Justine Taught Meditation & Yoga & Was Originally Trained as a Veterinary Surgeon
Going by the name Justine Damond, Justine ran Tuesday classes on meditation for the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community in Minnesota, which calls itself “a center for conscious living.”
“Originally trained as a Veterinary Surgeon, Justine has also studied and practiced yoga and meditation for over 17 years, is a qualified yoga instructor, a personal health & life coach (EFT, Theta and Reconnective Healing practitioner) and meditation teacher, embracing and teaching the neuro-scientific benefits of meditation with trainings under internationally renowned neuroscientist Dr Joe Dispenza from What the Bleep,” the site’s bio for Justine reads.
3. Justine Was Engaged to Be Married
The Star Tribune reported that Justine Ruszczyk was set to be married in August.
Social media indicates she was engaged to a man named Don Damond, whose LinkedIn page says is a vice president and manager at Little Six Casino, which “is owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community as part of the SMSC Gaming Enterprises comprised of Mystic Lake Casino and Hotel and Little Six Casino.”
Before that, he was a professional musician and a casino director of gaming operations.
Damond’s son and Justine’s future stepson, Zach Damond, has spoken out in the media about the shooting.
4. Rallies Ignited Over Justine’s Death
Activists demanded a federal investigation and held vigils in Justine’s memory on July 16 as word of the shooting spread.
“My heart is heavy with disbelief at the news that one of our resident speakers at Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, Justine Damond, was shot and killed by police in South Minneapolis late last night. Details are sketchy at this time. Justine spoke at LHSC on July 2nd. She always had such a profound message and loved going ‘down the rabbit hole,’” wrote Ella Davis-Suggs on Facebook.
5. Justine Asked People to ‘Open Your Heart’ on Her Website
Justine had a website dedicated to her healing activities.
“Discover your brain. Master your mind. Open your heart,” it reads.
Using the name, Justine Damond, she wrote, “Great advances in science over the last 20 years or so have seen us finally begin to unravel some of the extraordinary mysteries of the human brain and body. Through leading fields such as quantum physics, neuroscience and epigenetics, we are discovering the exquisite intricacies of not only how the brain functions, but also how it interacts with the heart and the body, and most fascinatingly, how it contributes to creating the personal reality we experience as our ‘life.’”