Sharpshooter 'no choice' but lethal force

·3-min read

The sharpshooter who brought down a gunman who murdered a Queensland police officer in a relentless barrage of bullets says he had no option but lethal force.

Senior Constable Brett Forte, 42, was killed when Ricky Maddison opened fire on police vehicles in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, on May 29, 2017.

Maddison, 40, was shot dead after being warned to surrender more than 80 times during a 20-hour siege.

Maddison had been on the run and hiding in a rural stronghold for more than two months, avoiding an arrest warrant for a domestic violence incident.

Finally, police tracked him down the day of the shooting, following him on the Warrego Highway before he veered on to a dirt road.

Police were ambushed as the road narrowed, Maddison opening fire on police vehicles with automatic weapons. Sen Const Forte was hit at least twice, a bullet to the leg severing his artery and the veteran officer bled out within minutes.

The fatal ambush sparked a 20-hour siege that was a threat like nothing that had "ever occurred in Australia", a senior Special Emergency Response Team officer told an inquest in Toowoomba on Tuesday.

Maddison warned police negotiators he had hidden explosive devices in bushland, and he intended to kill "as many Toowoomba police" as possible.

Armed with automatic firearms and "unlimited" ammunition stores Maddison posed a significant threat for his officers.

"We couldn't let him escape into the wider community and commit more murders," he told the inquest.

"I've been in sieges, but nothing like the threat that Maddison posed - I don't think anyone has.

"He was a highly motivated offender with unlimited ammunition that's nearly armour-piercing and fully automatic - I don't think that's ever occurred in Australia."

Operative 177 was one of the SERT officers crouched in bushland behind the stronghold when Maddison emerged.

Throughout the night, the increasingly paranoid gunman was convinced he heard police moving closer and fired round after round indiscriminately into bushland.

Operative 177 was hidden in bushland 120 metres away.

He had no line of sight but could hear the shots and told the inquest that the orders remained "containment".

Just after 11am, Maddison emerged from the stronghold through the back door, automatic gunfire ringing out. SERT officers returned fire.

Seconds later, Operative 177 saw Maddison running towards him with a high-powered automatic weapon cradled in his hands.

"I identified the rifle being held in both hands. His right hand was on that pistol grip. It was in a position where he could press the trigger at any moment," the officer said.

"The only option was to use lethal force.

"The time between us hearing the automatic gunfire and then the return gunfire and then myself being able to see Mr Maddison was only a short amount of time - possibly 10 seconds."

Even wearing body armour, Operative 177 knew it would be devastating if caught in an exchange of gunfire.

"There was a chance that he could be faster than us to fire towards him, just because of the way he had his rifle framed.

"If there were to be a confrontation, things would happen very quickly, and no amount of weapons, even having ballistic armour, it could have been very damaging.

"At any moment, he could have engaged.

"I did not have any other option other than using lethal force at that moment. He could press the trigger at any moment."

After Maddison fell, armoured vehicles drove towards him to attempt medical assistance and paramedics were called, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The inquest, set down for two weeks, continues.