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Grim details emerge over woman’s taser death

Police will have an internal investigation following the death of Krista Kach.
Police will have an internal investigation following the death of Krista Kach.

The family of a woman who died after she was tasered by police following a nine-hour standoff are demanding her death be investigated.

Krista Kach, 47, later died in John Hunter Hospital after police raided her home in Stockton, Newcastle.

Police were called to a unit complex on Mitchell St at Stockton in Newcastle shortly after 12.30pm on Thursday following reports a woman was threatening people with an axe.

Police were called to the Stockton unit after reports of a woman threatening people with an axe. Picture: Facebook/ Michael Cuneo
Police were called to the Stockton unit after reports of a woman threatening people with an axe. Picture: Facebook/ Michael Cuneo

They allege Ms Kach threatened responding officers with the axe before barricading herself inside a unit.

Police were able to gain entry to the property about nine hours later after an operation involving specialist tactical officers and negotiators.

Ms Kach was tasered during the operation and taken to John Hunter Hospital, where she later died.

Her family claimed they’d told police about the 47-year-old’s mental health conditions despite NSW Police Northern Command Assistant Commissioner Peter McKenna stating officers weren’t aware of any mental health issues.

“We told the police in no uncertain terms that she was not well that day and she needed medical help,” the family said in a statement on Monday.

“We were assured that the police would look after our mother and that she would be cared for by a hospital and qualified medical professionals.

“Our mother was not a dangerous person. She has lived through difficult circumstances but she was a loving and capable person who cared for people and her family.

“The only person in danger when the police broke into our mother’s home and the many hours leading up to that moment was our mother.

“What happened on Thursday was a disturbing and heartbreaking response by the police to a vulnerable person that had been told that she would soon be homeless.”

Mitchell St in Stockton was declared a crime scene during the nine-hour standoff. Picture: Facebook/ Michael Cuneo
Mitchell St in Stockton was declared a crime scene during the nine-hour standoff. Picture: Facebook/ Michael Cuneo

Ms Kach’s family said the police’s actions needed to be investigated.

“When the police informed our family that our mother had died they did not disclose how. It was only when we heard on the radio we learned that the police had discharged weapons on her,” the family said.

“She had experienced some mental distress in her life because her life was quite tough, but she was well connected with her own health and her family were advocating for her wellbeing with the police prior to the shooting incident.”

NSW Police have ordered an internal investigation into the incident, which would also include officers’ use of “less than lethal” weapons.

Speaking to the media on Friday, Mr McKenna said police had deployed a range of implements, including projectile bean bags, that likely caused the woman’s shoulder injury.

“She was able to walk to a nearby ambulance. Shortly thereafter, however, her condition deteriorated,” he said.

“The post-mortem on the woman will take place in the next few days, and we will be able to ascertain a cause of death.

“Her family has been informed and given as much information as possible and that will continue to occur.”

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NSW Police Northern Command Assistant Commissioner Peter McKenna says the incident will be reviewed internally. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

The investigation will be subject to an independent review.

In the wake of Ms Kach’s death, NSW Greens MP Sue Higginson is calling for a select committee to hold a parliamentary Inquiry into NSW Police responses to vulnerable people and accountability.

Ms Higginson, who has seen more than four hours of video footage on the night Ms Kach died, said her death should be a “turning point” for the state to start addressing how best to manage situations involving people experiencing mental health episodes.

“It’s hard to fathom the extent to which our system has failed Krista and her family,” Ms Higginson said.

“The 4½ hours of video footage shows a system that fails vulnerable people.

“Why did we do this to Krista and her family? We must never let this happen again.”

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Greens MP Sue Higginson is calling for the NSW government to hold an inquiry into police responses to vulnerable people. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Monique Harmer

Ms Higginson said the police failed to help Ms Kach and instead treated her like a criminal.

“A woman in her own home who was not being a threat to anyone, alone and clearly experiencing some form of psychosis, was relentlessly pursued and tormented by a large number of heavily armed police officers on her property,” she said.

“A family member, who I have spoken to, told police at the scene that she was having mental health issues and needed medical help.

“They also asked if they could speak to their mother to help and to try to calm her, but the police said to the effect, no that doesn’t normally work.

“Police could see she was unarmed, she told them consistently for hours on end that she was safe and that they, in number dressed in black riot gear heavily clad with lethal weapons, were the only thing that was unsafe and making her feel unsafe.

“Ms Kach was lying on her bed watching a children’s movie for at least an hour before the police broke into her home. You have to ask what the hell was the purpose of the police operation.”

Ms Higginson said the inquiry would work to establish better reference points for police dealing with vulnerable people.

“The police are not equipped to deal with such situations, that’s why we keep seeing vulnerable people killed at the hands of police,” she said.

Police try to negotiate with Krista Kach. Picture: Facebook/ Michael Cuneo
Police try to negotiate with Krista Kach. Picture: Facebook/ Michael Cuneo

“Police responses and protocols escalate situations because they are driven by capture, custody and punishment.

“None of these outcomes were appropriate or required to deal with Krista.

“Nothing Krista had allegedly done early that day, apparently pertaining to a property issue, warranted the siege, the relentless pursuit and the torment which resulted in her death.”

Ms Kach’s death comes four months after Clare Nowland, 95, died in hospital in May after she was allegedly tasered by Senior Constable Kristian White.

Police allege Ms Nowland was found in Yallambee Lodge nursing home in Cooma, NSW, while carrying a knife.

Constable White is before the courts charged over his alleged actions that led to the great-grandmother’s death.