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'No option' but to Taser Indigenous man in fatal arrest

Rex Martinich/AAP PHOTOS

A Queensland police officer has told an inquest he had no option but to repeatedly fire a Taser while apprehending an Indigenous man who died soon after.

The Coroners Court heard the first of three days of evidence for the inquest into the death of Ashley Charles Washington, 31, on December 13, 2020, in Toowoomba west of Brisbane.

Ashley's immediate family, who listened to Tuesday's proceedings via phone, requested the inquest use his first name.

Senior Constable Jamie Williams, of Toowoomba's dog squad, was the first officer to encounter Ashley after he allegedly burgled a home and assaulted its resident before leaving the scene at 6.35pm with money and a pair of scissors.

Sen Const Williams told the hearing he was a lone officer in a marked police vehicle with his police dog named Turbo.

The inquest was shown six minutes of footage from Sen Const Williams's body worn camera that showed him intercepting Ashley on the street and telling him to get on the ground.

In the footage, Ashley can be heard yelling incoherently and screaming before Sen Const Williams attempts to grab him then deploys Turbo.

Sen Const Williams testified that Ashley stabbed him in the head with the pair of scissors and he heard Turbo yelping after being repeatedly stabbed.

Ashley is then hit by wired probes from the Taser and falls to the ground before getting up and being stunned again by Sen Const Williams, who proceeds to deliver four cycles of electric shocks before other officers arrive and pin Ashley to the ground.

Sen Const Williams told the inquest that using his stun gun was his only option other than drawing his weapon.

"My aim was to use the minimum force not likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm," Sen Const Williams said.

Counsel assisting Sarah Lio-Willie asked Sen Const Williams why he delivered multiple shocks.

"Mr Washington had just tried to kill me, I needed to use that to preserve my life and I was aware of (bystanders) on the street," Sen Const Williams said.

Under cross-examination by Washington family solicitor, Angela Taylor, Sen Const Williams said he also gave Ashley two forceful kicks to the ribs.

Sen Const Williams told his solicitor, Claire McGee, that officers were trained to use their firearms if attacked by a person with a bladed weapon.

The inquest also heard from Senior Sergeant David Perry, the senior ethical standards command investigator into Ashley's death.

Sen Sgt Perry said he found the officers had involved acted appropriately and followed procedure, but he could not recall them using foul language towards Ashley on the body camera footage.

Paramedics administered a sedative to Ashley after he was arrested but he started displaying symptoms of cardiac arrest and was declared dead in hospital just after 8pm.

Sen Sgt Perry said police had no powers to order paramedics to administer any drug.

A pre-inquest hearing in June was told Ashley had suffered from coronary atherosclerosis, however there were no signs of an allergic reaction to the sedative.

He also had methamphetamine in his system in the toxic or lethal ranges.

A forensic examination was unable to determine the cause of death but found severe heart disease could have caused a cardiac arrest at any time combined with stress and drug use.

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Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905