Queensland Police Tasered An Aboriginal Man Six Times Before He Died

queensland police car
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following story discusses Aboriginal deaths in custody and is quite graphic. It will be distressing to some readers.

An Indigenous man who resisted arrest was tasered six times by a Queensland police officer before he died, a coroner has heard.

Ashley Charles Washington, 31, died on 13 December 2020 in Toowoomba. A pre-inquest conference into his death was held in the coroners court in Brisbane on Monday.

Ashley, as his family requested he be referred to, was allegedly trying to take sunglasses, surgical scissors and cash from someone’s property when he became aggressive and left, the court heard.

A police officer and police dog found him at 6.55pm and called for him to get on the ground, but according to Guardian Australia, he made “unintelligible noises” and walked away.

The police dog then went after Ashley and “made contact” with his arms and chest. Ashley then allegedly stabbed the dog with the scissors, who retreated back to the police vehicle.

“(The officer) then deployed his Taser, which caused Ashley to fall to the ground briefly and he was directed to put his hands behind his back,” Counsel assisting Sarah Lio-Willie said, per Guardian Australia.

While the officer tried to restrain Ashley, he resisted and struck the officer with the scissors.

The officer then tasered Ashley four more times before back-up arrived. Five other officers handcuffed Ashley and pushed his legs towards his buttocks as he spit blood.

Paramedics arrived and administered a sedative. Ashley’s heart rate then rapidly declined and he suffered a cardiac arrest. He was declared dead at 8.01pm at Toowoomba Base Hospital.

A forensic examination of Ashley’s body revealed he had multiple taser injuries on his body and had suffered from coronary atherosclerosis (coronary artery disease).

He also had methamphetamine in his system in lethal ranges.

The examination ruled that his cause of death was undetermined, since he had a severe heart disease, and it said that this combined with stress and drug use could have brought upon cardiac arrest at any time. Even though it happened after this series of events specifically. But, I digress.

A Queensland Ambulance Service investigation found the paramedics failed to properly observe Ashley’s condition, but noted that this wasn’t intentional and listed the dark, rainy conditions as mitigating factors.

However, an internal police investigation found the officer to have acted lawfully and reasonably.

A three-day hearing will take place before a state coroner from 29 August.

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