The family of an Aboriginal woman who died last week in Perth after losing consciousness while handcuffed believe she would still be alive if police had acted with more care.
Cherdeena Wynne, 26, died at Royal Perth Hospital on April 9 five days after she became unresponsive while restrained by police.
The grieving family have claimed it was a case of racial profiling and mistaken identity.
Her mother, Shirley Wynne, and grandmother, Jennifer Clayton, are calling for eyewitnesses to come forward.
“It’s just not fair,” Nanna Jennifer told NITV News. “We need to get justice for my granddaughter.”
Her death comes 20 years after her father Warren Cooper died in custody after being found unresponsive in a police watchhouse in the WA port city Albany.
“When I lost Warren, it was like someone reached into my chest and pulled my heart out,” Nanna Jennifer said.
“We just want to know what happened to ‘Deena’ and get justice for her.”
There are differences in the version of events outlined by the Wynne family and police.
Shirley Wynne told NITV that six police officers entered her home in Perth’s inner suburbs at 3.30am on April 4 looking for a different Aboriginal woman.
She claimed they checked her daughter’s identity only after they restrained her in distressing circumstances.
“She shouted to me, ‘mummy I can’t breathe’,” Shirley Wynne said.
“I said to the police, ‘she’s having a hard time’, and they said ‘grow up’.”
In a statement, WA police said they first came into contact with Cherdeena Wynne at around 5.48am.
“Upon seeing police, she was seen to run and was located at a nearby address shortly after,” they said.
“Her identity was ascertained and she was then left in the care of a family member.”
Shirley Wynne said that the incident left her daughter extremely emotional.
She ran away and met police again nearby.
According to police, the second encounter happened at 6.50am following reports that a woman had self-harmed and collapsed in the street.
Paramedics also arrived and Ms Wynne was placed in an ambulance but ran when it stopped at traffic lights.
Police were called again, found her “behaving erratically” and handcuffed her “to prevent injury to herself and emergency services”.
The mother-of-three lost consciousness, was uncuffed and paramedics performed CPR. She was revived and taken in the ambulance to hospital.
“When I first walked into the ICU at Royal Perth Hospital, I had one look at her and I thought, 'oh no not again'.” Nanna Jennifer said.
“I thought this is just like Warren lying there all over again.”
“Was she manhandled by the police? They need to be held responsible for doing this.”
According to the family, doctors at the hospital said Ms Wynne’s injuries included a two-inch gap in her neck vertebrae.
Police are preparing a report for the coroner however the incident will not be investigated as a death in custody or a death in police presence despite being present when she lost consciousness.
Lawyer George Newhouse, who is representing the family, said the family were “extremely distressed” by Ms Wynne’s death.
“They are very concerned about the circumstances surrounding her death and they are desperate to know the truth about what happened to her,” he said.
“The family’s trauma is compounded because Ms Wynne’s father died in custody 20 years ago.”
The news also comes during the week marking the 28th anniversary of the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
The family have been offered support by the National Critical Trauma Recovery Project.
“Inter-generational trauma has come in recurrent police custodial death, a father, a daughter 20 years apart, both the same age,” Head of First Nations Support Unit Megan Krakouer told NITV.
“Our peoples deserve lives equal to all and not to be treated as if a posse is after them."