Trial begins for police officer charged with alleged murder of Yamatji woman in WA

A jury in Perth has been shown footage of the last moments of an Aboriginal woman who died after being shot by a police officer.

A supporter of the woman referred to as 'JC' outside the court in Perth

A supporter of the woman referred to as 'JC' outside the court in Perth Source: AAP

This article contains an image of an Aboriginal woman who has died and references to suicide.

A police officer charged over the fatal shooting of an Aboriginal woman in Western Australia has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder.

The 29-year-old Yamatji woman, known for cultural reasons only by her initials ‘JC’, was fatally shot on a street in the Geraldton suburb of Rangeway two years ago. 

The trial of the police officer that shot her, a first class constable who cannot be named due to a court order protecting his identity, began in the WA Supreme Court in Perth on Tuesday. 

The man is the first police officer charged with murder while on duty in Western Australia in nearly 100 years.

On 17 September 2019, he was among eight officers that responded to reports of a person walking in the area carrying a large knife.

JC died in September 2019 following an encounter with WA Police in Geraldton, Western Australia.
Source: AAP

The courtroom on Tuesday was shown footage of the incident taken from a nearby home CCTV camera. 

It shows JC, who was known to police and is understood to have had significant issues with mental health and substance abuse at the time, walking slowly along the suburban street in Rangeway at around 6:20pm.

The footage shows two marked police vehicles arrive, with one vehicle pulling alongside JC as she continued to walk along the street. 

The court heard that JC ignored requests by the officers to drop the knife as well as a pair of household scissors, and that she continued to ignore the instruction even after being told that she would be tasered. 

Two marked police vehicles stopped in front of JC in the middle of the road, preventing her from walking further, while an orange sedan, an unmarked police vehicle, also arrived at the scene.

As it stopped, the accused got out of the passenger seat of the unmarked car, drew his loaded police-issued firearm and ran towards JC, who was still walking away from police down the street.

The footage shows JC stopped walking and stood still in the street, holding the knife and scissors and wearing a backpack.

The accused then fires a single shot from three metres away into JC’s abdomen, and she is seen to collapse in the street.

She was taken by ambulance to Geraldton Regional Hospital where she died from internal bleeding around 60 minutes after being shot.

The shooting occurred in front of the other officers and members of the public, who are expected to give evidence during the trial. 

After the footage was played to the jury on Tuesday, state prosecutor Amanda Forrester SC said only three seconds passed between JC stopping in the street and the officer firing a single shot into her stomach.

Ms Forrester said of the eight officers present at the scene, five remained inside their vehicles. Of the three that confronted JC, the accused was the only officer to draw his firearm.

One other officer drew his taser but didn’t arm it, while a third officer was unarmed, reportedly believing that he could talk to JC and convince her to drop the knife.

The prosecution said there was no justification for the officer to shoot and fatally wound JC, and that he did so unlawfully.  

“He meant at least to cause her an injury that would endanger her life, if not to kill her,” Ms Forrester told the court.

Supporters of the woman referred to as 'JC' outside the court in Perth
Source: AAP

In her opening remarks, defense lawyer Linda Black said the officer acted to protect his own life and those of others at the scene.

“The intention with which the accused fired the gun … was to reduce the risk that was being presented to the other people in that moment,” she told the jury.

“This case is not about the colour of people’s skin. This is about one second of judgement by a police officer dealing with an armed offender”.

JC had a young son who was not in her custody at the time of her death. She had only recently been released from prison and was struggling with reintegrating into the community. 

Ten days before she was killed, JC reportedly called police and threatened suicide. Police picked her up and JC was transferred to Perth for psychiatric assessment. She was discharged on 13 September 2019 and travelled back to Geraldton by bus.

JC was planning to return to Mullewa to live with her foster mother and son when she died.

In the hours before she was shot and killed, JC had been involved in a domestic dispute with some relatives, during which she allegedly threated to kill both herself and another person known to her. 

She left the area on foot, carrying the knife and scissors, before being stopped by police a short time later. 

The accused had been a full-time police officer for five years, on his second tenure stationed at Geraldton police station.

The trial, before Justice Robert Mitchell, is expected to last for four weeks and will hear from around 60 witnesses.

The trial continues. 

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, visit lifeline.org.au or find an Aboriginal Medical Service here. Resources for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can be found at Headspace: Yarn Safe.


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Published 5 October 2021 at 9:04pm
By Aaron Fernandes
Source: SBS News