• Mr Riley died after being tasered 16 times by police while he was having a mental health incident. (Sarah Collard)Source: Sarah Collard
Mr Riley was mentally unwell and his family says he waited for hours to see a doctor. He never did, instead dying after he was tasered by police 10 times in less than two minutes.
Karen Michelmore, Sarah Collard

The Point
25 May 2021 - 4:36 PM  UPDATED 7 Sep 2021 - 5:02 PM

The video runs for about eight minutes.

Cassandra Riley and her mother Margaret Ugle watched it in a courthouse in Perth a week ago, in preparation for today’s inquest.

Filmed by a bystander, it captures the distressing final minutes of the life of Mr Riley, their brother and son.

They say it shows Mr Riley, 39, clearly ill yet being tasered repeatedly by police, who piled on top of him in a car park outside a Perth office supplies store.

They want it released to the public.

“I’ve seen the vision, my son was tasered 16 times,” Mr Riley’s mother Margaret Ugle has told NITV’s The Point program.

“I was just so overwhelmed and so disgusted.

“I want someone to be (held) responsible. Who’s going to be responsible for what happened to my son?”

Mr Riley, a Noongar man, was pronounced dead at Royal Perth Hospital at 12.56pm on Friday May 12, 2017.

His death is the subject of an inquest which began in a packed WA Coroner’s Court in Perth this morning, examining whether the actions and force used by police were appropriate.

It will also determine whether the use of the taser caused or contributed to his death, and whether or not Mr Riley’s use of methylamphetamine was a factor.

Before the inquest began, family members including his mother Margaret, sister Cassandra and his children, gathered outside the court for a smoking ceremony ahead of the hearing, which they hope will provide some answers, and healing.

“Four years on and I’m still feeling like it just happened yesterday,” Ms Ugle says.

“It’s just unbelievable. And when I look at the grandchildren, my heart just cries because they haven’t got their dad around them. I haven’t got a son.

“Why, why are these things happening?”

Mr Riley’s sister Cassandra says her brother was a gentle soul, kind and caring.

“He was always making sure to see how everybody was going, he was the type of person that would always love to go to family houses and go and have a yarn with them and catch up, visiting everybody.

“He always made time for other people, especially his children, he loved these kids, very, very much.

“And as a big brother (he made time) for me, myself. He was my best friend.”

Four years ago, the family's world was shattered.

It was the evening of Thursday May 11, when police in Perth noticed a car driving erratically.

“That was the reason that he was pulled up,” Ms Ugle says.

“He was then taken to the watch house, where they did tests on him, breathalysed him. They couldn’t find anything.

“They knew he was ill, so they took him to Royal Perth (Hospital).”

'He never got to see a doctor'

The inquest heard Mr Riley was very close to his mother, Ms Ugle, who was not aware of him having any mental health issues previously.

However, she was concerned about him as he hadn’t seemed himself, and she phoned a neighbour and asked him to check on him. But he wasn’t home.

Ms Riley told NITV her brother must have felt unwell when he hurried out of his house earlier, as he left his shoes and socks behind, next to the lounge, and his television was on.

The inquest heard after police moved to release him, Mr Riley asked if he could be taken to hospital. A police call to a mental health emergency line suggested he “had a history of drug induced psychosis due to drug use”, it heard.

A year earlier he had been jailed over an assault on a police officer and ambulance officer, the inquest heard, and he had a history of using illicit substances.

Ms Riley says her brother waited eight hours in Royal Perth Hospital. She says he was unable to communicate because of his state, but she says he knew that he needed medical attention and wanted to see a doctor.

CCTV footage shows Mr Riley entering and leaving the Emergency Department numerous times over a seven-hour period.

Family visiting the hospital on unrelated health matters have told his mother and sister that they saw Mr Riley in the waiting room withdrawn, with his head down.

The inquest heard cleaning staff observed Mr Riley agitated and angry outside the hospital around 6.30am.

“All he was doing, he was really ill, he just wanted to wait to see a doctor,” his mother Ms Ugle says.

“And he never got to see a doctor.”

Dazed and disoriented, the family says he walked to a nearby Aboriginal medical service to seek assistance, before slumping outside a nearby Office Works store.

'And he was gone'

It was here he came to the attention of police, at around 11.35am “rocking from side to side, with his head in his hands and intermittently slapping his forehead”, the court heard.

Ms Riley says her brother was in pain, and groaning.

“He looked like he needed medical assistance,” she said outside the court.

“Why wasn’t a medical team, an ambulance there to assist him, why was the police there?

“They could have approached him in a better manner.”

The inquest, before a packed courtroom, heard Mr Riley began yelling he was going to kill police and tried to grab an officer’s gun. The inquest heard two officers were injured trying to detain him.

Today’s inquest was played the eight-minute video showing police discharging the taser.

“They were tasering him while he was lying down,” Ms Riley says.

“He was already like he couldn’t do nothing, you know that.

“And then just watching all the other officers just coming along, getting out of the car, piling on top of him.

“That was totally uncalled for.

“They next thing you know, he was pronounced unresponsive. You couldn’t hear him shouting no more, you couldn’t hear nothing.

“He needed help and no one was able to help him.

“And he was gone.”

Hannah McGlade is the executive officer of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service.

She wants the police use of tasers banned immediately.

“When police use such excessive force on a person, taser them repeatedly till they die, they need to be held accountable for that,” Dr McGlade says.

“No police have been stood down, suspended or disciplined to the knowledge of family for what happened to Mr Riley, who lost his life.

“That is completely unacceptable.”

The video was shown in full early in the hearing. The court ruled it would not be released publicly, despite wishes by the family that it be.

Outside the hearing, Mr Riley’s children, sister and mother gathered with signs calling for justice.

“My son was an ill person. He should never have been tasered,” Ms Ugle says.

“He was a sick person, a very ill person. To watch all that, it was so devastating to me.

“I just want answers. I love my son and I want some answers.”

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