Australia

Investigation launched after video appears to show South Australian police striking Indigenous man during arrest

Video appears to show a South Australian police officer punching an Aboriginal man during an arrest. Source: Facebook

SA Police has launched an internal investigation after video footage showed officers roughly pinning an Aboriginal man to the ground and appearing to strike him several times.

Video has emerged on social media showing a 28-year-old Aboriginal man being pinned to the ground and apparently struck repeatedly by a South Australian police officer.

In one of two videos posted to Facebook, a police officer appears to strike the man who is being held on the ground by two other officers.

In the video taken on Monday night, onlookers can be heard asking the officer to “let his head up”. They then yell “What are you doing?” as the officer appears to strike the man several times.

In the video a police officer appears to punch the man on the ground several times.
In the video a police officer appears to punch the man on the ground several times.
Facebook

SA Police has launched an internal investigation into the matter. 

"The investigation into this incident has been taken very seriously and a senior police officer has been assigned to undertake this as a matter of priority," a SA Police spokesperson said. 

Advocates for the man have named him as Noel Henry.

Police say the 28-year-old Kilburn man was initially arrested and charged with hinder police, resist police and property damage. The charges against him have been dropped pending an investigation. 

He was detained at Port Adelaide Police Station overnight, but was released on Tuesday as a result of the review. 

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SA Police said officers were responding to a report of domestic violence by an unknown offender when they stopped the man on his bicycle on suspicion of possessing illicit drugs at about 8.15pm. 

"He was asked to place his hands on his head while a search of his person was undertaken," a police spokesperson said. 

"The man originally was compliant and after a short time he began to refuse. Police attempted to arrest the man who resisted and a struggle ensued. Police and the man went to the ground as police attempted to restrain and handcuff him," they said. 

Police said they used "defensive spray" during the arrest and that a body camera worn by one of the police officers was grabbed and is missing. 

Police said that the arrested man and one of the officers received minor injuries during the incident. 

The arrest comes amid ongoing nationwide protests about Indigenous deaths in custody, incarceration rates and in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests in the United States.

Earlier this month, NSW police launched an investigation into the arrest of a teenager in Surry Hills after video that was widely shared on social media, showed an officer kicking the teenager's legs out from under him and forcing him to the ground. 

Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in South Australia CEO Cheryl Axleby said questions needed to be answered about how Monday night's situation escalated.

"When you look at the over policing in regards to this incident, it does confirm the reality of what happens to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders when they come in contact with the police," she said. 

"It is concerning we are seeing this type of behaviour and mishandling of Aboriginal people for very minor matters," she said. 

Aboriginal activist Latoya Rule said that Mr Henry called out that he "couldn't breathe" during his arrest, the last words of George Floyd in the United States before he died in custody. 

She also accused the police of racially profiling Mr Henry prior to his arrest and called for the police involved to face charges. 

"We need to throw the book at these police officers now, we need to charge police before they have the opportunity to kill us," she said. 

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South Australian Premier comments on Aboriginal man's arrest.
South Australian Premier comments on Aboriginal man's arrest.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said that there was no systemic racism within the state's police force, urging people not to jump to conclusions before the investigation was complete. 

He added that the officers involved had been placed on administrative duties pending the investigation. 

"This is obviously a matter of high public concern so we will make sure the investigation is thorough and complete," Mr Stevens said.   

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall told reporters on Tuesday the video was concerning. 

"I was concerned with the vision that I saw, police are conducting a thorough investigation and we will look at the results of the investigation and see what action needs to come from that," Mr Marshall said. 

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