Police Shooting – Northcote
Victoria Police, Media Release
Release date: Fri 12 December 2008
A 15-year-old Northcote male has died following a police shooting near Northcote Plaza last night.
Police received a number of calls alerting them to a male behaving erratically near Northcote Plaza on Separation Street.
Around 9:40pm two police divisional vans attended the area where they found a youth with two knifes in the car park area behind the plaza.
Two policemen from Northcote approached the youth, attempting to speak with him however he continued to act aggressively towards the members.
Police then deployed OC foam on two occasions which had no visible effect and the youth ran about 15 metres to the area around a skate park.
It is believed at this time the youth approached one of the members brandishing two knives.
Police have again attempted to calm the youth however he has continued to threaten them.
Early investigations indicate that three of the four members in attendance have then fired a number of shots at the male who has fallen to the ground.
He has died at the scene.
At this early stage, it is not known how many shots were discharged by police or the number of the times the youth was hit.
It appears the three members who discharged their firearms include two policemen from Northcote, a Leading Senior Constable and a Senior Constable, as well as a female Constable from Preston.
While it is believed the youth was shot in the upper body region, the extent of his injuries is under investigation.
Police are also following up a report that the youth had stolen the knives from a store at the Northcote Plaza earlier in the evening.
Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the shooting on behalf of the coroner while the Ethical Standards Department will oversee as per usual procedure.
Police quick out of the blocks to spin their latest shooting, Greg Barns (Crikey, December 12, 2008):
The reaction by Victoria Police to the shooting by their officers of a 15-year-old boy in a Melbourne park last night is an appallingly insensitive exercise in self protection and spin.
The Victoria Police media machine has hit the airwaves this morning seeking to justify a case where no less than three of their officers felt it necessary to use firearms on one young man, obviously drug affected or mentally ill or both, wielding two knives.
In among the expressions of sorrow and condolences by the Victoria Police to the family of the young man, are self justifying comments about the conduct of the officers. These comments are clearly designed to defend the name of Victoria Police, before the Coroner or any other investigation has had an opportunity to examine the evidence in the matter.
Assistant Commissioner Tim Cartwright told the media this morning, “We shouldn’t lose members of the community this way.” But then he added, “We train our police members, they’ve foamed him, they talked to him and they’ve done what they can. It’s a dreadful event.”
And Cartwright went on: “At some stage the young bloke has approached the police officers. They backed off and fired shots to no effect. He has continued to approach, at which stage three of the four members then fired at the young man, fatally wounding him. He’s fallen to the ground and died at the scene a very short time after.”
“If we step through the events and the investigation we’ve conducted today, the members did everything they could to talk him down … At the end of the day one of our member’s lives was at risk and the three members saw fit to defend that member. This is not a police failure. It’s a dreadful tragedy, it’s a failure of the community that we get a young man in these circumstances where the ultimate outcome is he violently approached police and he’s shot dead.”
How does Cartwright know that this is the truth of what happened to this young man? How can he pre-judge the critical issue of whether or not the officers involved feared reasonably for their safety? He doesn’t and he can’t — he wasn’t there and all he is doing is seeking to influence public opinion about the role of the police in this tragedy.
Cartwright has no business doing this — it is a matter for independent investigators and the courts, including the Coroner, to determine what happened last night in Northcote.
There are some significant questions that the police need to answer about this case. Firstly are the police trained well enough to deal calmly and compassionately with a person who is drug affected or mentally ill? Second, why is it that in a situation with four police officers against one young man the result is death to the young man?
These are issues that the Coroner and others will need to investigate and find answers to, and the boy’s family and the community have a right to ensure that the Victoria Police do not interfere in that process by continuing to use the media to spin the facts to suit their case.