A bright cascade of flowers covered a brand-new park bench near Minnehaha Creek dedicated Saturday to the memory of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, killed one year ago this weekend by a Minneapolis police officer.
Many in the crowd of about 100 people who came out to honor Damond, including Mayor Jacob Frey, carried pink flowers that they would later drop into the creek. The quiet, solemn event was planned with her roles as meditation teacher and spiritual healer in mind.
The bench site was chosen because it’s where Damond and her fiancé, Don Damond, who was present Saturday along with his mother, Sharon Sebring, first expressed their love for one another, organizers said. After a brief ceremony, people mingled in the street in a block closed off for the event.
The 3:30 p.m. bench dedication time was chosen because Damond’s relatives in her native Australia, joined by Don Damond’s son, Zach, were gathered at a beach there at the same time — though it was sunrise in Australia.
“Whether it was ducklings stuck in a sewer pipe or a woman calling for help, Justine gave her life helping somebody,” Don Damond told the crowd. He thanked those gathered for helping him and his family get through their time of grief.
“You opened your hearts and offered so much,” he said. “As soon as that bullet pierced Justine’s body, it pierced my heart, too.”
Later Saturday, a candlelight walk was planned from the Damonds’ home in the 5000 block of Washburn Avenue S. down the back alley to the spot where Damond was fatally shot by Officer Mohammed Noor on July 15, 2017.
Noor has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Damond, 40, who had called police to report a possible assault behind her home in the Fulton neighborhood. Noor, who was sitting in the passenger seat of the squad car sent to the scene, shot and killed her.
Her death mobilized neighbors to rally against fatal police shootings, bringing together diverse communities in broader protests against all such shootings in Minnesota and elsewhere.