A coroner has criticised police over the decision to not arrest a teenage drug dealer, who went on to kill another youth in Adelaide in 2012.

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coroner slams police for missing chance to stop a teen killer

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VIDEO SAPOL slammed over Liam Humbles Warradale murder of Lewis McPherson. 7News coroner slams police for missing chance to stop a teen killer

The coroner found police failed to seize several opportunities to prevent the murder of 18-year-old Lewis McPherson, who was shot as he walked to a New Year's gathering.

Deputy Coroner Anthony Schapel said 17-year-old Liam Humbles had the gun he used to shoot Lewis for at least six months, and police had been told about the firearm and his drug dealing.

Victim Lewis McPherson. Picture: 7 News
Convicted killer Liam Humbles. Picture: 7 News

It was found that police had contact with the convicted killer at least four times before Lewis was shot dead, including a search on Humbles home when they were told he was dealing drugs.

Mr Schapel said police could have "investigated that information with vigour" but did not, a trend that continued in a number of encounters with Humbles that year.

Mr McPherson was shot dead on New Year's Eve 2012.

"The matter of Liam Humbles throughout 2012 was met by police with a lack of vigour, leadership and cohesion," Mr Schapel said.

"In the court's opinion there is no question that the firearm that Liam Humbles maintained in his possession during the course of 2012 could have and should have been located by police."

Responding to the coroner's criticism, SA police said they would thoroughly review the findings and recommendations before commenting further.

Humbles was jailed for at least 23 years, reduced to 17 years on appeal, for Lewis’ murder as well as the attempted murder of two other men.

His case helped drive changes to gun laws in South Australia, with mandatory prison terms introduced in 2014 for anyone who sold an illegal firearm, regardless of whether it was used in a crime.

In his findings, Mr Schapel outlined nine opportunities that could have prevented Mr McPherson's death, most of them in relation to the police.

A coroner says SA Police could have prevented Lewis McPherson's death. Picture: 7 News

"I am not certain that all of them if taken singularly would have prevented his death, but when examined collectively there seems to be little doubt about it," he said.

Mr Schapel made 17 recommendations to prevent a similar death, including that police give "appropriate priority" to investigating allegations of unlawful possession of firearms.

And he recommended the drug diversion process for children be "re-evaluated in its entirety" with a limit placed on the number of diversion notices that any child could receive.

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