Zachary Rolfe committal hearing: Two shots ‘unnecessary’, court told

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A Northern Territory police officer charged with murdering Indigenous man Kumanjayi Walker was justified in firing one shot, but the second and third were ‘excessive, unreasonable and unnecessary’, a court has been told.

In a committal hearing for Constable Zachary Rolfe, US criminologist Geoffrey Alpert told Alice Springs Local Court on Thursday that after the first shot, the officer had time to reassess and use other options to subdue Mr Walker.

‘He had time, and the ability to go hands-on or use less lethal force, such as a Taser … (as) far more reasonable responses than going and shooting at very close range – two shots in the chest,’ Dr Alpert said.

In his report read in part to the court, the University of South Carolina professor said the second and third shots were not ‘reasonable, necessary, proportionate and appropriate to the circumstances’.

In a committal hearing for Constable Zachary Rolfe (pictured receiving receiving Clarke Medal from then Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove) US criminologist Geoffrey Alpert told Alice Springs Local Court on Thursday that after the first shot, the officer had time to reassess and use other options to subdue Mr Walker

In a committal hearing for Constable Zachary Rolfe (pictured receiving receiving Clarke Medal from then Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove) US criminologist Geoffrey Alpert told Alice Springs Local Court on Thursday that after the first shot, the officer had time to reassess and use other options to subdue Mr Walker

Dr Alpert told the court that he believed the first shot was reasonable because at that time Rolfe, Mr Walker and another officer were basically fighting and Rolfe had been stabbed with a pair of scissors (Kumanjayi Walker pictured)

Dr Alpert told the court that he believed the first shot was reasonable because at that time Rolfe, Mr Walker and another officer were basically fighting and Rolfe had been stabbed with a pair of scissors (Kumanjayi Walker pictured)

‘The second round of shots in close range to Mr Walker was excessive, unreasonable, and unnecessary,’ he said.

Dr Alpert told the court that he believed the first shot was reasonable because at that time Rolfe, Mr Walker and another officer were basically fighting and Rolfe had been stabbed with a pair of scissors.

‘Once that event ended, and Const Rolfe was able to disengage, my opinion is that he should have,’ Dr Alpert said.

‘He had the time and he had the ability and he had the space to reassess, and in my opinion reassessed improperly.’

But he agreed with defence arguments that he could not know Rolfe’s state of mind at the time in what was a tense, uncertain and rapidly-evolving situation that played out over just a few seconds.

In other evidence, Detective Senior Sergeant Andrew Barram, from police professional standards told the court he also believed the first shot fired by Rolfe could be defended.

‘There is some scenario open where the discharge of the first shot may have been justifiable,’ he said.

In other evidence, Detective Senior Sergeant Andrew Barram, from police professional standards told the court he also believed the first shot fired by Rolfe (pictured) could be defended

In other evidence, Detective Senior Sergeant Andrew Barram, from police professional standards told the court he also believed the first shot fired by Rolfe (pictured) could be defended 

Mr Walker (pictured) had threatened to kill the officers as they tried to arrest him, it was alleged

Mr Walker (pictured) had threatened to kill the officers as they tried to arrest him, it was alleged 

In his report presented to the court, Sgt Barram said it appeared Rolfe fired the first shot in defence of his partner Adam Eberl who was grappling with Mr Walker at the time.

‘Rolfe must have formed the belief that death or serious harm would result to Eberl, and that he had no other option than to shoot to protect Eberl from being stabbed,’ he said in the report.

‘That would be a reasonable belief at that moment in time.’

The court was played video from cameras worn by some of the officers involved in the arrest, which showed struggles.

Mr Walker had threatened to kill the officers as they tried to arrest him, it was alleged.

Evidence was tendered about police training which dictated that officers draw guns if an offender produced a weapon such as a knife or scissors.

Mr Walker died after being shot as police tried to detain him at a home in Yuendumu, 300km northwest of Alice Springs in November last year.

An urgent police response had been called from Alice Springs to make the arrest after the 19-year-old had rushed at other officers with an axe three days earlier.

Rolfe (pictured centre) has not entered a plea to the murder charge but previously indicated he would contest the allegation

Rolfe (pictured centre) has not entered a plea to the murder charge but previously indicated he would contest the allegation

It was considered he posed a significant danger to police and had the capacity for extreme violence.

Rolfe has not entered a plea to the murder charge but previously indicated he would contest the allegation.

The committal hearing will determine if the matter proceeds to the Supreme Court for trial.

Rolfe was not required to attend the hearing in person but appeared by video link from Canberra.

The case is due to return to court later this month for Rolfe’s counsel, David Edwardson QC, to present no-case-to-answer submissions.

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