NT cop fired shots in self-defence: lawyer

Kumanjayi Walker was shot three times by a policeman who'd been stabbed with scissors.
Kumanjayi Walker was shot three times by a policeman who'd been stabbed with scissors.

A Northern Territory police officer charged with murdering Indigenous man Kumanjayi Walker has no case to answer because he was acting in self-defence and just doing his job, his lawyer has argued.

Constable Zachary Rolfe's lawyer David Edwardson QC told Alice Springs Local Court on Friday his client was involved in a "dangerous, adrenalin-driven, high stress encounter" and was doing the job he was trained to do.

Rolfe shot Mr Walker, 19, three times, while he and a fellow officer were trying to detain him in Yuendumu, 300km northwest of Alice Springs in November last year.

Rolfe used his gun after Mr Walker stabbed him once with a pair of scissors.

In his submissions for why the case should be thrown out, Mr Edwardson was critical of evidence that Rolfe's first shot was justified but that the second and third were "excessive".

"To break down the actions of Constable Rolfe by a frame-by-frame fraction of a second, by fraction of a second, distorts, in our submission, the reality of the situation," he said.

"He had been stabbed. His partner was locked in combat with an armed assailant with a predisposition to violence. He could not press the pause button."

Police officers' body-worn camera footage of the incident has been submitted to the court as evidence, however the content is barred from the public.

Mr Edwardson mentioned evidence about police training in the NT, which teaches officers to shoot if threatened with scissors or a knife.

An NT detective testified that police are trained to fire "as many shots as are necessary to stop the threat".

The court heard Mr Walker had rushed at officers with an axe three days earlier, prompting a request for police to be called in from Alice Springs to arrest him.

It was considered Mr Walker posed a significant danger to police and had the capacity for extreme violence.

In responding to Mr Edwardson's submissions, prosecutor Phil Strickland said Rolfe had a case to answer and it was for a jury to decide whether he was reasonably acting in self-defence.

Rolfe and his colleague had paid little attention to a careful arrest plan put in place by Sergeant Julie Frost, head of the Yuendumu Police Station, Mr Strickland said.

Sergeant Frost had arranged with relatives of Mr Walker that police would hold off on the arrest until after a funeral he needed to attend.

She wanted the arrest to happen at 5am while Mr Walker was sleeping and for an Indigenous police assistant to be present, as well as a police dog.

Sergeant Frost gave evidence that she made the plans known via email but they were not followed.

Rolfe and his fellow officer went to make in the arrest in the evening without a dog or the Indigenous assistant.

"All those things...were planned in order to control the environment better and it is clear that that plan was disregarded by the accused," Mr Strickland said.

"He had put himself in a position where his tactical options were limited because of the failure to follow that plan."

Mr Strickland said there was evidence to say Rolfe's state of mind was that lethal force should be considered as a first rather than as a last option.

Rolfe has not entered a plea to the murder charge.

He is on bail and was not required to attend the hearing in person but appeared by video link.

The committal hearing will determine if the matter proceeds to the Supreme Court for trial and Judge John Birch is scheduled to make a decision on October 26.

Australian Associated Press