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Minneapolis police chief resigns after shooting of unarmed Australian woman

The resignation comes less than a week after the shooting.

A photo of Justine Damond, whom a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed. Facebook

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau resigned on Friday at the request of Mayor Betsy Hodges, following days of criticism of her handling of the police shooting of Justine Damond, who was unarmed and in her pajamas at the time she was killed.

In a statement, the mayor said that she’s “lost confidence in the chief’s ability to lead us further” and that Harteau “has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis as well.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Damond, a yoga and meditation instructor, called 911 late on July 15 to report a possible assault outside her home. Officers Matthew Harrity and Mohamed Noor responded to the call, with Harrity driving the squad car and Noor in the passenger seat.

Harrity told investigators that he was startled by a loud noise as they neared Damond’s home and that Damond approached the car from the driver’s side immediately afterward. Noor then fired his weapon, hitting Damond in the abdomen. (Noor has refused to talk to investigators about the incident, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.)

The officers then reportedly tried to offer emergency medical care to Damond, but were unable to revive her. She was pronounced dead at the scene minutes after she’d been shot.

According to the Washington Post:

Investigators said there is no footage of the shooting because neither officer activated their body cameras until after the shooting, which may have violated police department policy. The policy states that officers must manually activate the devices before any use of force and, if that does not take place, the cameras must be “activated as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The shooting quickly received international attention, because Damond is from Australia and planned to be married soon. (Her maiden name was Ruszczyk, but she’d already taken the name of her fiancee, Don Damond.) Justine Damond’s family in Australia is now demanding a federal investigation into the shooting.

As the controversy spiraled this week, the police department was slow to release information to the public about the shooting. It wasn’t until Tuesday night — three days after the shooting — that the department tried to explain why an officer had shot an unarmed woman in her pajamas who had called 911 for help.

Harteau, for her part, said she’s “asked for the investigation to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can.” And once some of the information came out, she acknowledged that “Justine didn’t have to die. I believe the actions in question go against who we are as a department, how we train, and the expectations we have for our officers.”

But that apparently wasn’t enough to recover from the harm that had been done to her credibility. So the mayor asked her to resign. (The New York Times also noted that Hodges is up for reelection in November, and has been accused of mishandling police issues before.)

For more on the shooting, read Vox’s explainer.