Members of the Borroloola community - located south-east of Darwin near the Gulf of Carpentaria - have criticised the handling of a serious police matter last week, after a family was allegedly terrorised by three men armed with a gun along a remote stretch of highway.
Rachael Hocking

10 Aug 2020 - 11:26 AM  UPDATED 10 Aug 2020 - 3:33 PM

Northern Territory Police have confirmed two men were charged over an incident that occurred along the Carpentaria Highway in the Northern Territory last week, that led to a local community protest outside of Borroloola Police Station on Saturday.

"Two men aged 31 and 19-years-old have each been charged with one count each of Aggravated Assault, and Driving in a manner Dangerous and two counts of firearm offences," said a police statement released Saturday night. 

The incident occurred on Thursday night last week, where a family allege they were pursued by a vehicle with three men and a gun along the Carpentaria Highway.

Lisa Watson witnessed the incident from the passenger seat of the vehicle with two young children, 5 and 3.

She said they were driving back from a fishing trip and had just left a roadhouse called the Heartbreak Hotel when the incident occurred.

"Once we left, we were followed in a vehicle high beaming us. We thought they wanted to get in front so my partner slowed down to let them pass," Ms Watson said in a statement.

"Once they got in front they slammed the breaks and three white men jumped out and tried to run up to our car to get us all out.

"I yelled at my partner to Drive! Their vehicle chased us for 20 minutes down the highway, firing shots and aiming it at the car. We saw them hanging the gun out the window on the passenger side."

Ms Watson said they pulled into a mine site along the McArthur River and approached security guards for assistance.

'Disgusted' with police handling

NT Police said investigations into the incident were ongoing and further charges may be laid, but some community members have criticised what they've labelled a "disgusting" handling of the situation.

While two men have been charged, community has questioned why they were released on bail and why a third man had not yet been implicated in police proceedings.

"We are very disgusted with how this has been handled. We want answers, that’s why we are here. This is our town. We have been terrorised on our own land,” said the mother of the victims, Maria Pyro, in a statement.

Ms Watson said she witnessed an officer at Borroloola Police Station "laughing and smirking" at her after they reported the incident.

"We could have had a car accident and the Borroloola police are taking it as a joke," she said.

"They will not be kept in custody until their court date, which I think is unacceptable because of how serious the crime is. We feel as if they should have more serious charges for what they did.

"This shooting would not be handled like this if this happened to white people and white children. Black lives matter. Me and my family should not have been hiding for our lives in the bushes like cattle."

In a statement to NITV News NT Police said were working with the community. 

"Borroloola Police Officers have an established relationship with Borroloola residents and community members, and will continue to work with and engage in the community," the statement reads. 

"The men have been bailed and are scheduled to appear before the Borroloola Local Court on August 31.”

In another statement released on Saturday night NT police said it responded to the original incident immediately and followed up with "numerous" interviews and information gathering.

"Police understand that the other party involved in the incident were distressed by what allegedly occurred, however current actions outside the Borroloola Police Station are not helping local police in the course of their duty.

"Police urge people involved in the current disturbance to peacefully return to their homes and allow police to continue with their investigations."

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