‘Cop will be labelled for the rest of his life as a blackfeller killer’

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Police should have used a taser or handcuffs, not a gun, shooting “like a dog” 19-year-old Kumunjayi Walker who was fatally injured in Yuendumu last night. (As a freshly deceased person first name his not permitted to be spoken under traditional law.)

 

The police officer who fired the shots “will be labelled for the rest of his life as a blackfeller killer,” says Otto Jungarrayi Sims, a prominent senior man in Yuendumu.

 

He is chairperson of Warlukurlangu Artists, which he describes as a vibrant business and an artist himself, as well as cultural performer. He also provides cultural liaison services, working with documentary film makers, travelling all over the world.

 

Mr Sims says the tragedy has stopped in their tracks efforts to plan the future of Yuendumu: “The community is devastated. It needs answers.”

 

Kumunjayi had breached parole, “but they should use a taser, or handcuffs, either way, not the third option, the gun.

 

“I have never seen it before.

 

“The gun will put you in a different course. You’ll be searching for ways to get out from that mess.

 

“The police used the gun but they won’t fix up the mess, they left a big mess. They shot someone. A black man,” says Mr Sims.

 

“Australia is reeling from this. A black man got shot at point blank range, like a dog, it’s no good.

 

“We are not in America. This is Australia.

 

“There were two police cars. I was sitting in my sister’s place around, six, seven. Two police Hilux whizzing past, with the lights on.

 

“There was something wrong. Next I got a call from someone. He said someone got shot.

 

“That was really bad, bad, bad. I still don’t believe it. Is this real?”

 

Mr Sims says the community is “angry with the police. We [normally] like the police but from this incident we don’t trust them. I don’t trust them.”

 

What does he expect the police to do now?

 

“There’s a lot of soul searching, looking at ways to reconcile with black people.

 

“This is not America. This is Australia. What they have done last night will hound them for the rest of their lives.

 

“It will be written down in Australian history. Police brutality will be written down. Everyone will know what has happened.

 

An angry crowd outside the Yuendumu police station last night (social media picture).

 

“Especially in the 21st century, when we had high hopes, us people in Yuendumu. We were going to plan for the future.

 

“We were going to have a meeting on Monday the 25th of November, a meeting about our future, to work, to build our community, to have law and culture and respect.

 

“Embracing one-another, including non-Indigenous people, working together, to make the community a better place to live.

 

“We talked about having a voice, a voice in the 21st century, a strong voice, you know, respect, including a good relationship with the police.

 

“But what happened last night, we have to go back to square one. Start all over again. I am devastated.

 

“We had someone shot by a cop. As an artist, how can I heal that wound, you know? I just want to keep the culture strong.”

 

Mr Sims says about the aftermath of the shooting: “We told our young people don’t get angry, don’t do anything silly.

 

“We use the law. We use the white man’s system. Justice. To get justice back. That is the only way that we can get justice through the white man’s law: Black man’s law is not about smart, arrogant young cops in our community, or rednecks.”

 

Mr Sims says the relationship with police in the community has changed: “We need mature cops in our system.”

 

In his experience, do the police make an effort to understand an Aboriginal community like his?

 

“Yes, they have,” says Mr Sims.

 

“I know a lot of cops who worked with these communities for a long time.

 

“They have been so good. We’ve been friends. A lot have gone back to Darwin, Melbourne, Sydney. They are the good ones. They know how to diffuse problems. There are good cops.

 

“But this was a cop with a problem in his own house, maybe. That’s what everyone is talking about, yeah. He had a problem and the only way to get his problem out was to shoot a black man.

 

“There is a lot of soul searching, we just had a meeting with the Assistant Commissioner [who had flown in from Darwin]. He said they will do everything in their power to do what’s good for the community. They will have an investigation.

 

“Everyone was so angry. We are angry. How would you feel if some white person was shot? We had to tell the young people to stay calm, and listen. The only thing we ask for is justice. We need justice.”

 

What happened when the Assistant Commissioner arrived?

 

Mr Sims (pictured at left speaking to the royal commission into juvenile detention): “Everyone was a bit angry. There were mixed feelings. Is it right to talk to the commissioner? Second thoughts. Is it good to trust the police after that incident?

 

“We have no choice but to listen to the elders and the best way is to get justice done for that young Kumunjayi.”

 

What’s the difference between the old police officers and the new ones?

 

“The old coppers were good, all mature cops, they’d been around, working in communities.

“They know the law, they know the cultural side of everything, they know how to approach [people]. They had a good relationship with the people here.

 

“The new ones, the young ones – maybe their uniform makes them tough. So they shoot a black man.”

 

Do they go out into the community, talk to people and find out about their culture and traditions?

 

“No. They don’t. Not like the old coppers. We just need answers, you know.”

 

What promises has the Assistant Commissioner made?

 

“[The incident] sends a message about the police force. They will be known as black killers, you know. They will be remembered as blackfeller killers.

 

“There are good cops, there’s bad ones. This young fellow who shot that Kumunjayi will be labelled for the rest of his life as a blackfeller killer.

 

“We need to speak the truth, in order to save the young ones, so that another black man won’t get shot. That’s why I talk the truth,” says Mr Sims.

 

Meanwhile a police media release gave an account of the events.

 

“Investigations are continuing following a death of a man in Yuendumu overnight.

 

“At approximately 7.15pm two police officers attended a residence within the community and attempted to arrest a 19-year old male for alleged property and assault police offences.

 

“An altercation has occurred between the male and one of the officers, resulting in an officer being stabbed in the shoulder. That officer has subsequently discharged his firearm wounding the man.

 

“First aid was applied at Yuendumu Police Station but the man died a short time later.

 

“Additional resources and support services have been deployed to the community to maintain calm and work with residents through this difficult time.

 

“Acting Commissioner Michael Murphy and Assistant Commissioner Travis Wurst, who have served considerable time in Central Australia, have attended a community meeting with residents today.”

 

Meanwhile the Police Association says in a media release that it is in Alice Spring providing support to officers involved in the shooting.

 

“President Paul McCue, said this incident highlights the incredibly dangerous environment police work in, every day, to keep communities in the Northern Territory safe.

 

“Our brave officers who have encountered what was evidently a very volatile and unpredictable situation – including a member who is being treated for injuries sustained during the incident.

 

“The stark reality is the risk is always there and officers are forced to make a split-second decision about how to respond, to protect themselves and others.

 

“Information released by Acting Deputy Commissioner Michael White demonstrates our members were executing their duties in a dangerous environment.”

 

 

UPDATE November 11, 9.30am

 

The man who died in Yuendumu on the weekend was not on parole. I understand that police were seeking to arrest him in relation to alleged breaches of a suspended sentence.

 

I have been told a police officer made the comment about parole during the weekend and, after it was learned he was in fact not on parole, the police tried to correct the record but given the speed of reportage the wrong information had already been published in numerous locations.

 

Xavier La Canna
Public Relations Officer, Courts & Tribunals

 

 

UPDATE November 11, 5.10pm

 

The Central Land Council (CLC) says in a media release the family of Kumanjayi Walker deserves an inquiry without delay that is independent of the Northern Territory police, fully transparent and thorough.

 

During a rally outside the police headquarters in Alice Springs today, CEO Joe Martin-Jard said the family needs to learn the truth as soon as possible, according the release: “We want full transparency, we want to see the body camera evidence, we want it out in the open.

 

“I call on the coroner to have this inquiry at Yuendumu and give families the chance to talk to him.”

 

CLC deputy chair Barbara Shaw is quoted in the release that the shooting came less than two weeks after a constructive discussion between the CLC delegates and a high ranking police officer at Yulara Pulka outstation.

 

The death of a teenager in custody and the stories she hears nightly from young people in her care have shaken her confidence in the ability of the police to repair their relationship with remote communities any time soon.

 

She is quoted as a person who’s supposed to be “building the relationship between the police and our people but now I feel very disappointed.

 

“We’re all going to have to take the long road because if this can happen to a 19-year old this can happen to a little 13-year-old who’s walking the streets at night.

 

“This coroner’s report has to look at the police and all the health and social issues that have contributed to the death,” Ms Shaw is quoted in the release.

 

 

UPDATE 7.20am November 12

 

Responding to questions form the Alice Springs News, police say the officer was “stabbed with an edged weapon. The information about the type of weapon forms part of the investigation into the incident and the report to the coroner.

 

“The officer was treated at Alice Springs Hospital.”

 

 

UPDATE November 12, 12.40pm

 

The Police Association says it is is appalled by recent “irresponsible” social media posts.

 

According to a media release president Paul McCue is in Alice Springs and has spoken directly with the officers involved.

 

It is incomprehensible that nothing more than innuendo and rumour is being posted on social media, while an active investigation is currently underway into the circumstances surrounding the shooting, he says.

 

“These officers are highly respected members of the police force and have served the community of the Northern Territory, including Central Australia, for some time.

 

“It is time for calm. We must respect the formal investigation process into the circumstances around this tragic event.”

 

 

 

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28 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Franklin D Baarda
    Posted December 6, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    @ Interested: I’ve only just caught up with this article and most of it and the numerous comments are now sub judice.
    As a long term resident of Yuendumu I must take issue with: “Now Yuendumu is one of the most dangerous communities in Central Australia [as is] Ali Curung.”
    On what do you base this “interested”?
    Have you ever visited Yuendumu? Clearly not.

    View Comment
  2. Ian Sharp
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 11:21 pm

    The officer charged will also always be remembered as a hero for his role in rescuing tourists washed away attempting to cross a flooded Hugh River. He received a bravery medal from the Governor-general. He has also served a tour in the army in Afghanistan.

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  3. Erwin Chlanda
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 2:47 am

    As a 28–year old male Northern Territory police officer has now been charged with murder following the death of 19-year-old Kumunjayi Walker in Yuendumu, we will publish no further information that could be regarded as evidence until the matter is heard again in court on December 19, and from that day onwards, we will report only matters that are raised in open court until it has handed down a verdict.
    ERWIN CHLANDA, Editor.

    View Comment
  4. Confused
    Posted November 13, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    @ InsideInformation: Thank you so much for clearing the air and aiding my confusion.
    Honestly it is so SO good that you have all that info.
    Maybe you might like to share what YOU seem to know with his grieving family.
    They haven’t received any answers, information or any new developments since this happened on Saturday.
    It’s now nearly Thursday. Oh, and of course the footage will never be released. SILLY ME for thinking that maybe at least someone in his family should see how their 19 year old family member took his final breath.

    View Comment
  5. Inside Information
    Posted November 13, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    @ David: Three shots were fired, but the victim was only hit once. This is known from the paramedics. It’s easy to think that two warning shots were fired before an actual shot was fired at the victim.
    @ Ellen Fiamengo: The victim was taken to the police station immediately as the clinic was shut and unmanned due to safety concerns. The police officer who was stabbed was later (day after) taken to the Alice Springs Hospital for treatment.
    @ Confused: Yes you are confused. Emergency medical services were called within 20 minutes of the incident. Family would not be informed of the victim’s medical status due to the overhanging risk of a riot happening. They already attacked the ambos coming to treat the victim! The paramedics were greeted with a bunch of rocks thrown at them, hitting them IN THE HEAD. Who does that to someone coming to HELP? Body cam footage obviously will not be released as it is part of the investigation.
    @ Davo: The victim was shot in the upper chest. One would think the police officer was aiming for the shoulder or upper arm, to get the victim to drop his weapon. But one sudden movement is all it takes. I’m not sure if you have ever fired a firearm but the slightest tremble and you will miss your intended target.

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  6. Scotty
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    @ John Bell: Agree with you totally John. Wouldn’t it be great to put these keyboard warriors in a training scenario where they have to deal with an edged weapon attacker.
    Now after they do get stabbed (which they will) think about real life. You are dead possibly. Police have a right to defend themselves, gun v edged weapon.
    Don’t attack police. Why do police carry guns. To protect themselves and others.
    @ Davo: You watch too much US TV shows.
    @ FTP: Like to see you disarm armed offender on edged weapon. Read John’s comments and study edged weapon v gun situations (Youtube).
    @ Confused: Refer above.

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  7. Davo
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    @ Really: You ask: “Would you mob be jumping on the band wagon if it was the other way around? Blackfella killing a white police officer”.
    There’s plenty of white police officers killing black people, but a blackfella killing a white police officer? In what universe does that happen?

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  8. David
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    In most crime situations police often seek and rely on help from the public to help catch an offender or to help resolve a criminal case.
    Yet it seems too often though, when the public seek information from police about situations such as what has occurred, police clam up.
    All that does is cause innuendo, speculation and sensational media reporting that does not go down too well for police.
    Police say the police officer was attacked with an edged weapon. An edged weapon could be anything but a knife. The significance is, a young man was shot dead, shot three times, yet the main focus is on the weapon used to attack the police officer.
    The fact remains the police office was attacked. The weapon could have been anything. Should it be that the circumstances of the attack would matter more? And yes, I’m no keyboard lawyer. Just wondering like everyone else.

    View Comment
  9. Posted November 12, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    Am I reading this right: The police officer was treated in hospital for his knife wound. The young man who was shot was taken to the police station where he died.

    View Comment
  10. Confused
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    I am confused. There were two policeman and one 19-year-old.
    Are NT Police trained to disarm an individual in self defence without use of a fire arm? Especially if there are two against one?
    If an individual is shot therefore limiting their ability to walk, breathe, exert themselves after the fact does it still mean its necessary to hand cuff the individual whose been shot?
    I am also confused by the fact that after said shooting the two policemen then took the individual to the local police station which was vacant and then kept the body in the police station for two hours or longer locked in with the lights turned off before calling for emergency assistance or making the individual’s family aware of the of the current health status.
    How can both policemen carry the weight of a 19 year old if one of the police officer has been stabbed in the shoulder?
    Still also confused as to how its now Tuesday and this happened on Saturday yet the NT Police are yet to produce the footage of the incident to clarify to the grieving family what happened in order for them to grieve and heal.
    In fact I am REALLY REALLY confused as to how there has been no explanation … reasoning or anything as of yet provided by the police.

    View Comment
  11. John Bell
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Making a split second decision in a volatile situation to “disarm” a violent knife-wielding attacker by “shooting him in the leg” with sharpshooter accuracy is the stuff of NCIS TV heroes.
    Real life is much more difficult.
    There is a question of police training to look at, of course.
    However, a number of the commentators appear to be saying to be automatically assuming that it is incontestable – a man with a gun has no right to shoot a man coming at him with a knife.
    I have read a number of forensic articles on the gun v knife / cop v attacker debate.
    The articles, written by experienced investigators of police law enforcement situations, conclude that in many scenarios, the knife is just as deadly, if not more deadly, than the gun.
    Would it be outside the coroner’s brief to look at this knife v gun issue?
    Most of us who would automatically say a gun is deadlier have never been in a scary situation of a crazy coming at us with a knife. Just a thought.

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  12. John
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 11:50 am

    Well if I was a police office and someone pulled a knife on me the first thing I would reach for is my gun. God knows what these people are on these days and there is no respect for any law enforcement.

    View Comment
  13. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 11:13 am

    “This coroner’s report has to look at the police and all the health and social issues that have contributed to the death,” Ms Shaw is quoted in the release.
    Communities have also to be responsible, and ask themselves why the clinic was closed? It was not the police’s fault but the actions of some community members.
    Who in his or her sane mind would go to work fearing for his or her life?

    View Comment
  14. Erwin Chlanda
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 10:18 am

    @ “Really!!” – Otto Jungarrayi Sims, a prominent senior man in Yuendumu, has every right to express his views. Through the Alice Springs News, with a readership of more than 20,000 people (Google Analytics), Mr Sims can exercise his right to free speech, as can “Really!!”
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

    View Comment
  15. Really!!
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Ok, so here we go. People making all sorts of comments – you weren’t even there, you didn’t see it happen, so keep your ill informed comments and views to yourself … unless you were in that position how would you know how you would react?
    Do you know that police officer? No you don’t, so please stop calling him a blackfella killer.
    Would you mob be jumping on the band wagon if it was the other way around?
    Blackfella killing a white police officer – yeah you ought to be ashamed of yourselves – talking up like you was there and witnessed what happened – how dare you – this police man is also someone’s husband, son, father, brother, nephew – obviously he has to live now with what has happened.
    Give him a chance to tell his side of the story.
    And yes its already been said – there will be an independent NT Coroners Investigation, so leave it to the experts you keyboard warriors!

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  16. Paul Parker
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 3:54 am

    I am puzzled by comments from the Central Land Council (CLC) CEO Joe Martin-Jard and CLC deputy chair Barbara Shaw.
    Are they each claiming NT Coroner hearings are not independent, fully transparent and thorough?

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  17. Meysam Chopla
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 2:47 am

    These other people commenting are talking like as if they were there!
    The young man’s family are the witnesses so let them speak, we will hear the truth from them.
    There was no need what so ever for that officer to draw his gun and to pull that trigger.
    This is a perfect example of excessive abuse of power and superiority over race.
    This is a very traumatic event for the whole of Australia and I pray for the family of this young man to get the justice that they deserve.

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  18. Bob Scolden
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 2:25 am

    Excessive abuse of power this is. If someone broke into my house while I was home and the perpetrator held a knife it is lawful for me to fend him off with a knife. But if I was to fend him of with a gun or if I accidentally shot him I would go to jail.
    I don’t know if this young man had a weapon? I would want to see evidence on this but I believe that this officer went to fight this young man with a gun.
    This young man did not have a gun. I hope this family for this young man get their justice.
    This has happened all too much in Australia.

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  19. FTP
    Posted November 11, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    Come on this young man was only 19 … 19!
    Surely [the police officer could have] disarmed him.
    He will now have to live each and every day knowing that he has taken a young man’s life.

    View Comment
  20. Interested
    Posted November 11, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    I have worked in Central Australia for 11 years, heavily involved in Aboriginal communities.
    I know many police officers who all do a fantastic job. Do people know what they have to go through, urinated on, spat on, bite their gums so they bleed and spit blood out through the bars
    Police have to have tests regularly because of this. They can’t take their family to stay with them otherwise they are in risk from a family whose child, teenager or parent has been arrested. But yet after all this they want to stay and protect people. I worship them.
    Now Yuendumu is one of the most dangerous communities in Central Australia [as is] Ali Curung.
    People don’t protect a dangerous individual who stabs police officers.
    It is a shame but don’t blame someone for doing their job and protecting their life.
    Members respect police. Look after your families and this won’t happen.
    He is not a black man killer. He is doing his job. I feel sorry for what he is going through. People who really don’t know what it’s like should not comment.

    View Comment
  21. Davo
    Posted November 11, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    Any clown can become a police officer these days. It’s a job you can get when you can’t get a job.
    He could have used his Taser, capsicum spray, or shot him in a non-fatal area like in the leg.
    Just an incompetent cop who received poor training.
    Should’ve stuck to harassing people coming out of the bottle shop, but now he has to live with the fact he’s killed someone.

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  22. Liberal
    Posted November 11, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    This is a situation that was bound to happen sooner or later. Aboriginal people have been behaving in a lawless manner for a long long time, the tree is bearing the fruit!
    Police don’t randomly go around shooting young men or women for fun.
    They just don’t think!
    From where I stand the Aboriginal Community Police Officer programme has not worked here. Why wasn’t he involved with this thoughtless action that is now going to become a violent angry scenario in Alice Springs where Aboriginal people are already out of control and behaving outside of acceptable behaviour!

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  23. Scotty
    Posted November 11, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    “The new ones, the young ones – maybe their uniform makes them tough. So they shoot a black man.”
    I don’t think so. So all new and young police officers are like this? Are all young Aboriginals criminals?
    The truth is the a lot of young Aboriginals today have no respect for the law. Always breaking in, assaulting people, stealing, etc.
    Now we have a situation where the young Aboriginal assaulted an innocent person who was a police officer. Bit off more than he could chew. Now all the do-gooders are saying he was a top bloke. I think we are smarted than that.
    Maybe this will sink into the other young Aboriginals who think they can break the law without penalty.

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  24. Justice
    Posted November 11, 2019 at 11:13 am

    An eye for an eye” (Biblical Hebrew: עַ֚יִן תַּ֣חַת עַ֔יִן‎) or the law of retaliation (Latin: lex talionis) is the principle that a person who has injured another person is to be penalized to a similar degree, and the person inflicting such punishment should be the injured party.

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  25. James T Smerk
    Posted November 11, 2019 at 8:06 am

    I think a lot of these comments are uninformed and racist. A total ignorance towards events that have occurred. Let’s wait till we know more before labelling things.
    It’s all hate towards the police, until an emergency then we all want the police.
    They have a hard job and should be respected as such.
    Bad apples will always be found in every job but the majority will always be good, and I’m not saying this person was by any means a bad apple because I just like most people don’t know the facts.

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  26. Paul Parker
    Posted November 11, 2019 at 6:43 am

    Re: Chris Slater, posted November 10, 2019 at 8:23pm:
    “The stark reality is the risk is always there and officers are forced to make a split-second decision about how to respond, to protect themselves and others.”
    I agree.
    In life we all may at times be forced to make such split-second decisions.
    If accurate the deceased resisted arrest, using a knife, the entire NT community needs address why so many fail to understand how making such decisions increases danger to themselves and others.
    Now the investigations, particularly the inquest, which is a court hearing, need time to collect all available, at times conflicting evidence, time to consider then determine relevant facts, which will be released in the Coroner’s findings.
    Coroner hearings and their findings are open to the public.

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  27. Scotty
    Posted November 10, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    A teen lunged at a Police Officer and stabbed him. The Police Officer has the right to defend himself with his firearm. He is a man or woman and wants to return home to his family.
    Remember the offender in this matter is the teen who attacked Police first.
    The victim in this matter is the Police Officer. Stop making excuses for people who do the wrong thing and pay the consequences.

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  28. Chris Slater
    Posted November 10, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    “The stark reality is the risk is always there and officers are forced to make a split-second decision about how to respond, to protect themselves and others.”
    And there it is in a couple of lines.
    So sad for the deceased’s family and the police officer, tough job in a volatile place. Who would put their hand up to serve there? Only the best.

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