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'Choke him out': cop yells before Indigenous man dies

Rex Martinich -

An inquest into the death of a young Indigenous man has been shown body-worn video of Queensland officers putting him in a "choke hold" that is banned in other states.

Steven Lee Nixon-McKellar, 27, died shortly after having pressure applied to his neck while a senior constable arrested him outside a relative's house in Toowoomba on October 7, 2021.

Mr Nixon-McKellar's family requested he be referred to as Steven during the Coroner's Court hearings, which started at Toowoomba on Monday.

His family and friends were warned by State Coroner Terry Ryan that the footage could be upsetting but many chose to stay.

"I have to see what they done to my grandson, they have got to be stopped," a woman in the public gallery said.

The footage shown was from an officer who arrived as backup for two officers who responded to an anonymous phone call about a grey Subaru SUV with another vehicle's number plate parked outside a house in Toowoomba.

One of the first two officers yells "choke the c***, choke him out," in a struggle with Steven before the choke hold is applied.

Steven falls rapidly to the ground under the force of the hold, officially known as a lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR) and another officer yells for it to stop as "he's asleep".

Steven was later unable to be resuscitated by paramedics as his throat was obstructed by vomit.

Constable Brandon Smart, one of the first two officers to arrive on scene, was the first to give evidence on Monday.

Const Smart, who was sworn in as an officer in 2018, said he approached the driver's side of the vehicle and yelled for its occupants to get out as he thought the SUV would ram their police van.

Senior Constable Simon Giuliano then struggled with Steven and Const Smart went to assist.

"I struck him in the quad with my baton to achieve compliance and it was not effective so I wrapped the baton around in a bear hug and as he was larger than me it w as not effective," Const Smart said.

Under cross-examination by a legal representative for the Nixon-McKellar family, Const Smart denied his bear hug had prevented Steven from complying with directions to get on the ground.

Const Smart denied his actions in approaching the car were impudent or stupid given his concerns about being rammed, but he did concede that he did not explain himself or tell Steven or anyone else in the SUV they were under arrest before smashing the window.

About 40 people gathered outside the courthouse before the start of proceedings for a Black Lives Matter rally to mark 551 Indigenous deaths that organisers say have died in custody since a royal commission made its recommendations in 1991.

A banner featuring Steven's face and a call to "Stop Black deaths in custody" was raised in front of the court.

Flowers and candles were arranged on the footpath to spell out the number 551.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

Rex Martinich - AAP

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