Lawyers say NT cop who shot teen is trying to pervert course of justice
An open letter from the police officer who shot an Indigenous teenager has been condemned by NT police lawyers as a blatant attempt to pervert the course of justice.
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains an image of a person who has died, which has been used with the permission of his family.
An inquest into the shooting death of Kumanjayi Walker resumed on Monday, days after Constable Zachary Rolfe left the country having written a lengthy letter critical of the coroner and NT Police.
Rolfe shot Kumanjayi Walker, 19, three times as he resisted arrest in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs, on November 9, 2019.
Rolfe said the NT Police Force had wasted millions of dollars on disciplining him rather than giving him a medal.
“Despite this, the coronial focus is still on me rather than on areas that could improve the circumstances of the NT,” he wrote last week.
Ian Freckelton, representing the NT Police Force, questioned the motive of Rolfe’s letter and if it was an attempt to intimidate senior leaders of the police force.
“We don’t know whether the motive of Mr Rolfe is to try to intimidate the two members of the executive who are going to be giving evidence before this week,” Freckelton said.
“It is an attempt to pervert the course of justice. It is a gross and blatant attempt to interfere with your inquest.
“As best we read it, that seems to be the aspiration of Mr Rolfe.”
Deputy Police Commissioner Murray Smalpage is one of more than a dozen witnesses scheduled to give evidence at the inquest in the next fortnight.
More police officers, Territory Families and other departmental witnesses are also due to give evidence.
Rolfe has previously refused to answer questions as part of the inquest.
He appealed an NT Supreme Court ruling that would compel him to answer uncomfortable questions at the inquest.
The appeal is scheduled for April 11.
He was acquitted last March by a jury after a high-profile five-week trial.
The inquest was established in early September to hear voices from his community, and to examine the wider circumstances surrounding the shooting.
Two Warlpiri elders from a different community near Yuendumu told the inquest the community’s relationship with police officers had improved in recent decades, thanks to police efforts to work and build relationships with elders.
The inquest has heard from more than 50 witnesses so far.
Experts have told the inquest Rolfe’s decision to forcefully enter and militarily clear the house where they found the Warlpiri man was risky and against orders.
The coroner has also heard Rolfe sent and received racist, sexist and homophobic text messages during conversations with other officers, which he claims have been cherrypicked to paint him in a certain way.
Rolfe defended the terms used in these messages as playground language in the letter.