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Justine Damonds fatal encounter with Minneapolis police shocks Australia

Last Updated Jul 18, 2017 3:29 PM EDT

SYDNEY –Half a world from where anAustralian woman was shot dead by a Minneapolis police officer, Tuesdays front-page headline in her hometown Sydney newspaper summarized Australias reaction in blunt terms: AMERICAN NIGHTMARE.

In Justine Damonds native country, news of the meditation teachers baffling death has dominated the airwaves, newspapers and websites for days, feeding into Australians long-held fears about Americas notorious culture of gun violence.

The country is infested with possibly more guns than people, said Philip Alpers, a gun policy analyst with the University of Sydney who has studied the stark differences in gun laws between the nations. We see America as a very risky place in terms of gun violence — and so does the rest of the world.

While police officers carry guns in Australia, deadly shootings by police are exceedingly rare; there are only a handful reported each year, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology. And though the U.S. doesnt keep a national database of deadly police-involved shootings, even incomplete statistics show there are hundreds every year.

Americas reluctance to strengthen its gun regulations and its seemingly endless stream ofshooting deathshave long been a source of confusion and concern in Australia, which instituted tough gun ownership laws in 1996 following a deadly mass shooting. At the time, then-Prime Minister John Howard — a conservative — warned Australians against following Americas lead on gun control, saying: We have an opportunity in this country not to go down the American path.

The Australian governments official travel advice to those heading to the U.S. specifically warns tourists to be on guard for gun crime, and urges Australians living in the U.S. to be familiar with active shooter training drills. Australian media coverage of Americas frequentmass shootingsis often tinged with disbelief — another day, another shooting in America is a common refrain on newscasts.

The death of Damond, a 40-year-old meditation teacher who was reportedly dressed in her pajamas when she was shot by a police officer late Saturday, has sparked a similarly stunned reaction. The story has led network newscasts and was splashed across newspapers front pages. Sydneys Daily Telegraph ran an editorial headlined A senseless and tragic death.

Authorities have released no details on what prompted Saturdays shooting, which occurred after Damond called police to report what she believed to be an active sexual assault in an alley near her home.

A law enforcement source told CSB News Pat Milton on Monday that it was still unclear why the officer had discharged his weapon. The officer apparently had his gun drawn when he and his partner arrived at the scene in their cruiser.

The drivers side window was open and the bullet traveled past the officer seated in the drivers seat and through the open window, the source told CBS News. It hit a woman standing at the window, but it wasnt clear whether the woman — whom police have not formally identified as Damond — was talking to the officers at the time or had just approached the window.

Damonds Sydney-based family issued a statement on Monday saying they were trying to come to terms with the tragedy and understand why it happened. On Tuesday, her father spoke out publicly for the first time.

We thought yesterday was our worst nightmare, but we awoke to the ugly truth and it hurt even more, John Ruszczyk told reporters. Justine was a beacon to all of us. We only ask that the light of justice shine down on the circumstances of her death.

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Womans Day Australia October 23 2017

Womans Day Australia October 23, 2017

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