13 Sep Two of three shots fired by Constable Zachary Rolfe, killing…
Two of the three shots fired at Yuendumu teenager Kumanjayi Walker were “excessive, unreasonable and unnecessary”, a criminologist has told the committal hearing of NT police constable Zachary Rolfe.
- Criminologist Dr Geoffrey Alpert told the court the first shot fired by Constable Rolfe was “justified”
- He said Constable Rolfe had time to “reassess” before firing two more shots
- He said a plan devised by local officers for the arrest of Mr Walker was “important”
Constable Rolfe is facing a charge of murder over the shooting death of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker during an attempted arrest in the remote central Australian community of Yuendumu in November last year.
The officer, who is suspended on pay from NT Police, is on bail in Canberra and has been appearing at the committal hearing at the Alice Springs Local Court via video link.
His legal team has previously indicated he intends to plead not guilty.
Throughout the committal hearing, the court has heard a total of three shots were fired on the night Kumanjayi Walker was killed.
Dr Geoffrey Alpert, a criminologist and sociologist giving evidence from the United States, told the court he believed the second and third shots fired at Kumanjayi Walker were “unnecessary”.
Dr Alpert agreed the first shot was fired in response to Constable Rolfe being stabbed with scissors by Mr Walker.
“I think the first shot was justified,” Dr Alpert said.
“I think after that shot was fired [Constable Rolfe] had the time, the distance and the ability to reassess and in those few seconds realise he could respond with hands on … which would be the same amount of time it took him to get close and fire his weapon,” he said.
Dr Alpert told the court he was an “expert in officer-involved shootings” and had evaluated “hundreds and hundreds” of them.
‘He had time to reassess’
Under cross-examination by defence barrister Anthony Allen, Dr Alpert was questioned about the “split second” decisions Constable Rolfe had to make during a “dangerous, adrenaline driven, high stress encounter.”
“It’s going to take more time for someone to reholster a firearm, unholster a taser, produce the taser, level at the target and then deploy the taser,” said Mr Allen.
“More time than firing his weapon? Yes sir,” Dr Alpert replied.
“Had Rolfe fired two shots in the beginning after he had been stabbed instead of one shot … I would’ve been satisfied,” said Dr Alpert.
“My point is that event had ended, and he had time to reassess … it’s the decision he made to fire his weapon, not the number of shots that I’m opining about,” he said.
Constable Zachary Rolfe was a member of the Alice Springs-based Immediate Response Team, which was called to Yuendumu to assist with the arrest of Kumanjayi Walker.
The Officer in Charge of Yuendumu Police Station in November 2019, Sergeant Julie Frost, told the court earlier this week she had called the IRT unit and had planned for them to make the arrest at 5:30am on Sunday, November 10.
But the court has heard the attempted arrest and the shooting of Mr Walker happened during the evening of Saturday, November 9.
In his evidence, Dr Alpert praised the arrest plan outlined by Sergeant Frost.
“I think including a local officer who is familiar with the people, with the situation and even the culture is very important and it was a very important part of the plan to include [a local officer] and especially to wait [until 5:30 in the morning],” he said.
Some of the Immediate Response Team members who have already given evidence told the court they were not briefed on the details of Sergeant Frost’s plan.
The court also heard evidence today from Detective Senior Sergeant Andrew Barram of the NT Police Professional Standards Command about body-worn camera footage from the attempted arrest and shooting.
Sergeant Barram told the court he believed that after Kumanjayi Walker had been shot once and taken to the ground, his right arm, which was gripping a pair of scissors, was pinned underneath his body.
Under cross-examination by defence barrister David Edwardson QC, Sergeant Barram conceded he could not be certain of that as Mr Walker’s forearm was out of the camera’s view.
But he said there was nowhere else Mr Walker’s arm could be.
“Because it’s attached to his right shoulder, which is on the ground,” Sergeant Barram said.
Mr Edwardson suggested Sergeant Barram was “deliberately wanting to put forward the most sinister interpretation of what can be seen on that video footage, rather than accepting that there may be alternative explanations for what happened”.
But Sergeant Barram said: “I’m suggesting that before deploying potentially lethal force, careful consideration should be given.”
The committal hearing finished early this afternoon after several medical witnesses were dismissed before giving evidence.
The hearing will resume on September 25 for final submissions and Constable Rolfe remains on bail in Canberra.
Judge John Birch will decide after September 25 if there is enough evidence for Mr Rolfe to be put on trial in the Supreme Court.
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