FULTON — Scores of community members and activists converged on the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue South on Sunday evening, a night after a woman was fatally shot there by police.
Friends and neighbors remembered the woman as a teacher, healer, mother and fun-loving person who was determined to make a difference. Activists called for justice for the woman and expressed hope the incident would unite the community.
Authorities have not identified the woman. A woman who knew the deceased woman through the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community said the family did not want her name published yet.
The shooting happened after two Minneapolis police officers responded to a 911 call of “unknown trouble” just north of the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue South around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, according to Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo. An officer fired a weapon at one point, striking and killing the woman.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the incident. The offices involved are on administrative leave.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Officer will conduct an autopsy on the woman and will release her identity and the cause and manner of death once it’s complete and family notifications have taken place, according to a BCA statement.
The officers’ body cameras were not turned on at the time of the incident, and the squad camera did not capture it. Investigators are attempting to determine whether any video exists, according to the BCA.
Mayor Betsy Hodges in a press conference Sunday at City Hall said she’s “heartsick and deeply disturbed” by the shooting. She said she spent time throughout the previous night gathering and sharing information, though there hadn’t been much to share.
“We have few facts at this point,” she said. “It’s difficult and challenging to have few facts.”
She called on the BCA to share as much information as quickly as it could while maintaining the integrity of the investigation. She questioned why the officers’ body cameras weren’t turned on.
Arradondo referred all questions about department policies as they related to the case to the BCA, including the question of whether officers’ body cameras are supposed to be on for 911 calls.
Every officer on patrol in Minneapolis is equipped with a body camera, he said.
Teacher, kind person
The woman was Australian and had moved to Minnesota to be with the man who became her fiancee, according to Gary Perisian, president of the Lake Harriet Spiritual community. They were scheduled to be married in August in Hawaii, he said.
The woman had rented space from the center for a while and was teaching a Tuesday night meditation class there.
“She was very much into kind of a combination of science and spirituality,” Perisian said.
The woman was trained as a veterinary surgeon and had taught yoga at one point, Perisian said. He said he never heard the woman say anything bad about anybody.
“It was just love and hugging people and calling people love with that Australian accent,” Perisian said. “As somebody who would be a threat to the police, it’s the last person you ever would think of being a threat to anybody. She would be more likely to hug the police officer than threaten in any way.”
Son’s Facebook Live video
The vigil was co-hosted by the Minneapolis NAACP and Women’s March Minnesota, according to Bethany Bradley of the later group. She posted a Facebook Live stream earlier in the day with a person whom she identified as the woman’s son.
“So basically my mom is dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know,” he said in the video. “… She heard a sound in the alley, so then she called the police and the cops showed up. She was a very passionate woman. She thought something bad was happening and next thing I know, they take my best friend’s life.”
The activists told the crowd they were there to stand in solidarity and demand justice. Mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds said she doesn’t believe police have any information that could justify why the woman was killed, which is why they haven’t released much information.
She said she hoped the shooting would serve as a wake-up call for the community to stop being divided along lines of race and socioeconomic status.
“Yes, we need to celebrate the life of the person whose life was lost, but if we don’t demand justice, this will happen again,” she said. “And this community is not immune from it happening again, because our police forces are out of control. That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you guys.”
Neighbors said they wanted answers but that they wanted to use the vigil to remember the woman.
“She wasn’t somebody who was an us-against-you person,” said Cindi Claypatch, who knew the woman through the spiritual center. “She was always somebody who was trying to help people expand and see their blind spots.”
Ward 13 Council Member Linea Palmisano released a statement Sunday that said the MPD did an initial canvas of the area to speak with residents on Saturday night and that the effort is ongoing. They continue to remain in communication with neighbors to the extent they have information.
“I have been assured that the BCA will be releasing information as it is ready,” she said. “We are told that we can expect a statement from the BCA today. I know we are all anxious for more information and I will share more details once I receive them. I am in constant communication with our Inspector Kathy Waite to understand as soon as possible what happened and why.”