NT cop says sorry to grieving community

·3-min read

A police officer has issued a heartfelt apology to a grieving Northern Territory community over the fatal shooting of an Indigenous teenager during a botched arrest.

Sergeant Julie Frost was the officer in charge of the Yuendumu police station when Kumanjayi Walker, 19, was shot in his grandmother's home, 290km northwest of Alice Springs in 2019.

The veteran officer who has never fired her service weapon during her almost two-decade-long career described his death as a tragedy.

In a message directly to the community that turned their backs on her after the fatal shooting, Sgt Frost said she was sorry for the teenager's loss.

"I hope that you will accept how genuine I am saying that is a tragedy that Kumanjayi died," Sgt Frost said on Friday at the end of two days of evidence to a coroner.

"To the family and community of Yuendumu, I'm very sorry for the loss of Kumanjayi, and I hope this inquest can provide you with some answers to what happened on that night to cause your loss.

"More importantly, I hope that we can all learn from this to ensure that this never happens again."

The officer earlier told the inquest into the teenager's death she was devastated when forced to leave Yuendumu but acknowledged police had made mistakes.

"Please know that the police officers that come out to work in your community do so because they care about helping your community," Sgt Frost said.

"We try our hardest to balance your cultural expectations with the need to ensure that the people in your community remain safe.

"Like everybody, police sometimes make mistakes, we are not perfect."

During her evidence, Sgt Frost told the inquiry she "didn't contemplate for a minute" that the operation to detain the Warlpiri man would result in a shooting,

She had called in a special police unit to help in the arrest, admitting it "wasn't a great idea" in hindsight they came into the community armed with assault weapons.

Sgt Frost admitted that at the time, she didn't believe long-arm weapons and AR-15s carried were necessary, fearing they would be considered were "confronting and threatening".

"I didn't think they were necessary, but if that was part of the kit that they would normally bring out, then it wasn't a concern that they wanted to bring them out," she said.

"In hindsight, it wasn't a great idea because of the fact that they actually did carry them on that day in the community."

Earlier, she also admitted being shocked by racist text messages exchanged by the team members revealed at the inquest.

Sgt Frost agreed language which referred to Indigenous Australians as "c**ns" and "neanderthals", was disgraceful and abhorrent.

The messages were retrieved from the phone of Constable Zachary Rolfe who shot Mr Walker three times during the arrest attempt.

Const Rolfe was charged with murder but was acquitted after a Supreme Court trial.

He had been part of the Immediate Response Team that went to the remote community to detain the 19-year-old just days after he had fled from local police while brandishing an axe.

Sgt Frost agreed she would never have called in members of the IRT if she knew they held such derogatory opinions and would not have allowed them to assist in the arrest of Mr Walker.

The inquest in the Alice Springs Local Court is exploring 54 issues related to the life of Mr Walker and the actions of police before and after he was killed.

The inquest continues on Monday.