JC inquest: Police witnesses give evidence at coronial inquest into shooting death in Geraldton

Headshot of Kate Campbell
Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
Sen. Const. Dillon McLean and Sen. Const. Lucinda Cleghorn.
Camera IconSen. Const. Dillon McLean and Sen. Const. Lucinda Cleghorn. Credit: Anna Cox

The police officer at the centre of a coronial inquest into the death of Yamatji woman JC took to the stand on the fourth day.

But for 3½ days prior, his seven colleagues who were also at the scene on Petchell Street in Karloo on September 17, 2019 gave evidence about their recollections.

Their encounter with JC on this evening lasted just 44 seconds. Const. Brent Wyndham had been on the scene for 16 seconds before he pulled the trigger after repeated demands for the woman, known as JC for cultural reasons, to drop the knife and scissors she was holding.

Here are excerpts of the evidence of those seven officers.

FIRST CLASS CONST. LUCINDA CLEGHORN (in first police pair to arrive)

“The command that stood out above all else, was when he warned her if she didn’t drop the knife she would be tasered.”

“(She) shrugged with her arms out to the side . . . I took that as she understood what (was) said to her and that she didn’t care.”

“When you have a situation that is time-critical, there’s no time to enforce a command structure.”

“In my mind, the risk was so high and the time we had to deal with that risk was so short . . . the commands given at the time were appropriate.”

“We’re the ones called out to deal with it . . . if we are injured we can’t do anything.”

SEN. CONST. KENNETH WALKER (in first police pair to arrive)

“I told her a number of times to drop the knife.”

“All three officers were at risk.”

“There was nothing I could have done extra in that point of time.”

“I don’t think I had enough time to consider if she had a mental health issue on that day.”

“The incident had to be dealt with in one way or another . . . we couldn’t wait in our cars.”

“There were a lot of things we could have done differently . . . If (Sen. Const. Adrian Barker) did not come as close as what he did (that) might have helped.”

“In that 44 seconds there were a lot of commands given, I would have thought that was enough time (for JC) to respond.”

“She was a risk to people but not an imminent threat.”

FIRST. CLASS CONST. ANTONY CARACATSANIS (in second police pair to arrive)

“There just wasn’t time to do anything differently from my perspective. I can’t think of any way to have slowed the situation down.”

“If we’d had more time perhaps.”

SEN. CONST. EDWARD COONEY (in third police pair to arrive)

“The only motion I observed . . . was a flicking or a rotation of the right hand. I couldn’t see it spinning in her hand as such, I could only assume.”

“Lots of things could have been done differently . . . It’s an endless list essentially.”

“Learnings doesn’t necessarily change things . . . but it’s the communication beforehand, arriving on scene, talking to offenders.”

“Every individual has their perception of what happened that day.”

SEN. CONST. BRYAN BIRD (in fourth police pair to arrive)

“My command would still be to drop the knife because even though she’s standing still, she still has the knife.”

“It gave me insight into what I didn’t know.”

CONST. DILLON MCLEAN (in fourth police pair to arrive)

“I was in the process of arming the taser”

“I didn’t have the opportunity . . . because she was fired upon.”

“I didn’t initially know why she got shot.”

“You come to realise one person might have better rapport with someone so you step back.”

“I could have gotten out of the car quicker, I could have begun engaging with JC quicker.”

“I was able to use the radio but more information was coming through from people at the scene.”

FORMER SEN. CONST. ADRIAN BARKER (in second pair to arrive)

“There was no chance of getting on that radio. I could barely announce when we arrived on the scene.”

“As I expressed before about it (use of force) being a bit of a barrier to communication . . . she hadn’t made any overt acts to me.”

On opportunity for someone to take the lead: “There is, but there’s no avenue at that time for that information to be conveyed. If you use the radio, you’re cutting off comms.”

“I would have distracted her. I’m not sure what I would have used . . . but you would be surprised at the power of distraction.”

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