Ruszczyk called police Saturday night to report a possible sexual assault in an alley near her home, her fiancé, Don Damond, said in a news conference Monday.
Two police officers responded and one of them — who had served only two years on the force — shot the 40-year-old in the abdomen, killing her, according to police and the autopsy released Monday.
“The death of Justine is a loss to everyone who knew her. She touched so many people with her loving and generous heart,” Damond said Monday.
“Our lives are forever changed as a result of knowing her. She was so kind, and so darn funny. She made us all laugh with her great wit and her humor.”
Due to marry next month
As an animal lover, she continued to volunteer at a local dog shelter, Secondhand Hounds, colleagues told CNN.
She was living with Damond at the time of her death, and they were planning to marry in August. She had already adopted his surname professionally.
Ruszczyk had dual citizenship in the US and Australia because her father holds US citizenship, the source said. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is providing consular assistance to her family.
Tributes pour in
It quoted a former colleague from the newspaper, reporter Rod Bennett, who spoke to her warmth and humor.
“We became good friends and often shared a laugh,” Bennett said. “She had a terrific sense of humor and we immediately hit it off as mates,” he said. “This has shocked me. I will miss her.”
Julia Reed, a longtime neighbor and family friend of Ruszczyk, spoke to Australian media on behalf of the slain woman’s family.
“She undoubtedly will be very missed by the family,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion. “She was treasured and loved, and we will really miss her.”
‘Like a mother’
Ruszczyk was equally loved in her adopted hometown of Minneapolis, and liked and respected professionally.
“Justine has an energy and care that allowed me to feel safe from the moment I walked in,” a testimonial on her website, attributed to a wellness consultant named Jo Grabyn says. “Working with Justine changed my life in ways I never thought possible.”
“My mom is dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don’t know, and I demand answers,” he said in a video posted to Facebook, wiping tears from his eyes.
“This woman was a beautiful light. She was a healer, she was loved… She should still be here,” one woman named Bethany said to applause.
“This should not have happened … that could’ve been me, that could’ve been you, that could’ve been you, that could’ve been any of us,” she added.
Divergent views on guns
High-caliber rifles and shotguns were banned, licensing was tightened and remaining firearms were registered to uniform national standards — an accomplishment regarded by many in the country as then Prime Minister John Howard’s enduring legacy.
In the years after the Port Arthur massacre, the risk of dying by gunshot in Australia fell by more than 50% — and stayed there.
CNN’s Carma Hassan, Holly Yan, Emanuella Grinberg, Dakin Andone, Stella Ko, Brad Parks, Jessica Suerth and Ryan Young contributed to this report.