Please note, this story contains reference to someone who has died.
The police officer accused of murdering Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker, Constable Zachary Rolfe, was part of an out-of-town response team that fought with local police and had been told Kumanjayi Walker had a significant capacity for violence, the Alice Springs Local Court heard on Tuesday.
Rolfe appeared via video link before the court for the first day of a four-day committal hearing to decide whether he will be tried for murder in the Northern Territory Supreme Court over the November 9, 2019 death of Kumanjayi Walker.
The Immediate Response Team (IRT), called in from Alice Springs to assist with Walker’s arrest, was shown bodycam footage of a violent altercation that took place between Walker and Yuendumu police before the shooting that ended his life.
The footage, played in court on Tuesday, showed Walker charging Yuendumu police with a tomahawk axe when they tried to arrest him at the home of his girlfriend for the breach of a court order.
Sergeant Julie Frost, head of the Yuendumu Police Station, said she met with Walker’s grandparents, Eddie and Lottie Robertson, after the incident to negotiate Walker’s peaceful surrender.
Walker was given a couple of hours to turn himself in, which was extended to allow him to attend a funeral on Saturday evening. Sergeant Frost intended to arrest Walker at 5.30 am on Sunday.
Sergeant Frost said her decision to delay the arrest was partly out of respect for Sorry Business and partly a bargaining chip she hoped would encourage Walker to hand himself in peacefully.
Sergeant Frost also told the court the high-risk tomahawk incident had prompted her to call in the IRT and a dog squad from Alice Springs to assist with the arrest.
The Sergeant spoke of a “challenging” conversation she had with a member of the IRT after they arrived. She said she felt the officer was “trying to take over” the operation.
Walker was shot on Saturday evening, the night before Frost had planned to arrest him.
The court also heard Rolfe was hospitalised with a stab wound following the shooting, though colleagues’ statements said they had expected Rolfe to be “back at work within the week”.
As the hearing continues, body camera footage of the shooting is expected to soon be shown to the court.
By Sarah Smit