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NT police officers back actions of murder-accused officer

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The Northern Territory police officer who sent Constable Zachary Rolfe to arrest Kumanjayi Walker says he may have fired his gun if he was in a similar situation.

Rolfe, 30, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Walker during a failed outback arrest in Yuendumu, 290 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs, on November 9, 2019.

The 19-year-old was shot three times after he stabbed Rolfe in the shoulder with scissors during a scuffle in an unlit bedroom.

Acting Sergeant Shane McCormack selected and briefed Rolfe and three other officers from the Alice Springs Immediate Response Team for deployment to Yuendumu.

Asked by Rolfe’s lawyer David Edwardson QC if it was appropriate for a police officer to draw their firearm from its holster when confronted by a dangerous offender armed with an edged weapon, Sergeant McCormack said: “Correct”.

“It does not even have to be a knife,” he told the Supreme Court on Monday.

“If I ever see someone there with a baseball bat, I am going to draw my gun. A hammer, I am going to draw my gun.”

Asked if Rolfe’s team was trained to back away if they discovered an offender, Sergeant McCormack said: “No”.

“We do not withdraw from people we are there to arrest. That is our job. If I find an arrest target, I am not going to withdraw,” he said,

“If anything, I am trying to go and get hold of that person as quick as I can.”

Asked if he would shoot an offender in some situations, Sergeant McCormack again answered: “Correct”.

He agreed police were trained to rapidly incapacitate armed offenders by shooting them in the body to extinguish the threat, saying it was up to the individual officer to determine when that had occurred.

“I am the one that turns around and says: ‘This is how many rounds I believe will stop them’.

“I could fire. I could not. I could stop. I could fire again. I could stop. I could fire again. I could stop. Or those rounds could be continuous.”

Sergeant McCormack said a “potentially fatal” incident when Mr Walker threatened two police officers with an axe to evade arrest three days before he died was likely to have given him the confidence to arm himself against Rolfe.

Rolfe’s mate and colleague Constable Mitchell Hansen said watching body-worn camera footage of the so-called “axe incident” made him feel sick.

“I felt fairly ill watching that footage,” he said.

“When I saw Walker raise an axe to my fellow police officers … I wholeheartedly believed (he) was about to kill or severely injure one or both of those members.”

Neither were injured and Mr Walker dropped the axe before fleeing the scene.

Constable Hansen was on patrol with Rolfe looking for Mr Walker after he escaped the officers on November 6.

Body-worn camera footage shows Rolfe interacting with numerous Aboriginal people in the Alice Springs area during the search. He is respectful, friendly and professional towards them, and displays astute judgement and leadership qualities.

Earlier, former Northern Territory Police Superintendent for the Southern Desert Division Jody Nobbs said he authorised a plan for Rolfe and his three colleagues to arrest Mr Walker at 5.30am on November 10.

“More than endorsed, I articulated that was my expectation as the preferred course of action,” he said.

Superintendent Nobbs said Rolfe’s team was also ordered to assist local police with general duties and provide a highly visible presence.

Asked if that included arresting Mr Walker before the planned time if they learned where he was, he replied: “Not necessarily”.

He said an early morning arrest gave police the ” element of surprise” and lowered the chance of something going wrong.

However, Superintendent Nobbs agreed that plans had to be “dynamic and adaptable” in situations where an offender armed themselves and sought to attack the arresting officer.

The trial continues on Tuesday.

We’ve Already Come Too Far To End This Now.

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