A Northern Territory police officer who fatally shot Kumanjayi Walker bragged about injuring a man wrongly suspected of escaping custody, an inquest has heard.

Walker, 19, died after Constable Zachary Rolfe shot him three times during a botched arrest in Yuendumu, north-west of Alice Springs, on 9 November 2019.

Rolfe was charged with the murder of the Warlpiri man but acquitted after a supreme court trial.

The inquiry into Walker’s death on Wednesday heard evidence about Rolfe’s use of force in several 2019 arrests.

Body-worn camera footage was shown of him charging at a man and pushing him into a barrier outside a tavern after chasing him through the Alice Springs mall.

The inquest heard that the man had been suspected of escaping custody in what proved to be a case of false identification.

The then acting Alice Springs superintendent, Pauline Vicary, did not review the footage but signed off on an internal report describing the force used as “proportionate, reasonable and necessary”.

The day after the arrest, Rolfe sent a text message after filming the body-worn camera footage on a computer using his phone.

“Treated him to the old illegal shoulder charge,” he wrote. “Turns out the dude wasn’t who we were looking for and is now in a sling for nothing, ha ha. Don’t run from police.”

Footage was shown of another arrest the following month in which Rolfe forcefully pushed a man into a wall after the officer saw him arguing with a woman late at night on the Alice Springs council lawns.

The man’s head was split open after crashing into a bench seat, and blood could be seen pouring out of his head.

Under questioning from counsel assisting, Peggy Dwyer, the now-retired Vicary said she did not recall the matter being raised with her. “I’m not sure why they went running to him … I think the context is important,” she added.

In a message sent days later, Rolfe boasted he had “mashed some dude’s face against a wall”.

Other incidents cited by Dwyer included the April 2019 arrest of a 17-year-old Indigenous boy who alleged Rolfe had banged his head into a rock after chasing him, leaving him needing stitches.

Police records show there were 46 use-of-force incidents reported for Rolfe between December 2016 and November 2019. He was cited for failing to activate his body-worn camera 13 times in three years.

Vicary agreed she was aware by October 2019 of multiple complaints relating to Rolfe’s conduct, including relating to his use of force. But she defended not taking any action against him because an internal investigation had not concluded.

The inquest continues.



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