Northern Territory police officer Zachary Rolfe has been found not guilty of murder after Warlpiri 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker was fatally shot during an arrest.
Rolfe was charged with murder in 2019.
The jury found Rolfe not guilty of murder or the alternate charges of manslaughter and engaging in a violent act causing death.
The trial lasted for a month in the Northern Territory Supreme Court and the jury deliberation took just under seven hours, as per Nine News.
According to the ABC Kumanjayi was shot three times in a confrontation with police. He lived in the community of Yuendumu, about 300kms north-west of Alice Springs.
Kumanjayi was first shot after he allegedly stabbed Zachary Rolfe with a pair of scissors. That first shot was accepted as legally justified by The Crown but the second two shots weren’t.
The prosecution argued that Kumanjayi Walker had already been restrained by Zachary Rolfe’s partner Constable Adam Eberl when he shot the second and third time. It argued that Rolfe didn’t think those two finals shots were necessary and as a result wasn’t acting reasonably.
In court, prosecutor Philip Strickland SC said that the jury could conclude that Rolfe didn’t fear for his life when he fired the two final shots. He also argued that Rolfe didn’t see Kumanjayi Walker stabbing Eberl.
“The Crown case is that the evidence that the accused gave in court — that he did have those beliefs— was a lie,” Strickland said, as per Nine News.
“And the accused lied to justify the unjustifiable; namely, the fatal shooting of Kumanjayi Walker.”
The defence argued that Rolfe was reasonably performing his duties.
“Each time [Zachary Rolfe] pulled the trigger, he was acting in good faith,” defense barrister David Edwardson QC said in his closing address.
“He was acting in the reasonable performance of his duties and he was acting in self-defence; the self-defence of himself and his partner.
“In these circumstances there can be only one verdict and that is one of not guilty to all charges.”
After the not guilty verdict, Yuendumu elder Ned Hargraves spoke to the media.
“I’ll just say, when are we going to get justice? When?” Ned Hargraves said, as per the ABC.
“No guns, no guns in our own remote community. We don’t want no guns. Enough is enough.”
Kumajayi Walker’s cousin Samara Fernandez-Brown spoke about the family’s loss and their feelings about the trial.
“Throughout this trial, Kumanjayi has been depicted solely as a dangerous individual, who in the words of [defence lawyers] was the author of his own misfortune,” she said.
“He has been criticised and picked apart by people who didn’t know him. They saw only his flaws, and wish to put him at trial for his own death.
“That is disgusting and that’s the system we live in.
“A young man who was taken far too soon and a young man who has been deeply, deeply missed.”
Kumanjayi Walker’s death sparked protests across the country, calling for justice over First Nations deaths in custody.