A police officer in the Northern Territory says in retrospect it was “not a good idea” that specialist officers were armed with assault weapons as they prepared to arrest an Indigenous teenager.
Kumanjayi Walker, 19, died after Officer Zachary Rolfe, 31, shot him three times at his grandmother’s home in Yuendumu, 290 km northwest of Alice Springs.
Sergeant Julie Frost provided evidence in the investigation into the teen’s death, admitting that she did not think the long-arm weapons and AR-15s carried by the Immediate Response Team were necessary.
Sergeant Frost told the inquest that the powerful weapons were “confrontational and threatening” and would damage community trust.
“I didn’t think they were necessary, but if that was part of the gear they would normally release, then there was no concern that they wanted to release them,” Sergeant Frost said.
The officer in charge of Yuendumu Police Station was asked whether bringing the powerful weapons into the community increases the chances of firing the weapons.
“In hindsight, it wasn’t a great idea because they actually wore them in the community that day.”
Sergeant Frost said she called the Immediate Response Team to help, as Walker was difficult to arrest and prone to violence.
“There was some urgency around it, but I know I had to come up with a plan because I knew it was going to be a very difficult arrest…and also that he could potentially use force against us when we went to arrest him.”
Mr Walker died on November 9, 2019 during the botched arrest.
Const Rolfe was part of the specialist response team that went to the remote community to apprehend the 19-year-old just days after he fled local police, brandishing an axe.
The officer was charged with murder and later acquitted in a Supreme Court trial.
The Alice Springs Local Court inquest examines 54 issues relating to Mr Walker’s life and the actions of the police before and after he was murdered.
The investigation continues.