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Miklos Bolza

Indigenous man's fatal arrest in spotlight

Stanley Russell was fatally shot by police in November 2021 at his aunt's home in the Sydney. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

The death of an Indigenous man's brother in custody may have played a role in how he reacted when police showed up with an arrest warrant for him in 2021, a coroner has heard.

Police fatally shot Stanley Leonard Russell on November 9, 2021, at his aunt's home in the Sydney suburb of Seven Hills after he allegedly threatened officers with a hatchet and Bowie knife.

An inquest began on Monday at Lidcombe Coroners Court, where Magistrate Carmel Forbes heard of Russell's prior experience with both police and corrective services, including that his brother Edward Russell had died while in Long Bay Jail in 1999.

"It cannot pass unmentioned that (parents) Ted and Helen and their family have now lost two children," said counsel assisting Kristina Stern SC.

"His brother's death may provide important context to the attitude and emotional response of Stanley to custody."

Russell was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and other mental disorders including substance dependence and depression which became heightened after his brother's death in jail.

On a number of occasions after he was arrested and incarcerated, Russell attempted to take his own life and engaged in acts of self-harm, saying he would rather die than be put in jail.

Four police officers attended the home of Russell's aunt Pam Saha with a bench warrant for the 45-year-old's arrest on November 9, 2021. He was wanted after failing to appear at Newtown Court on three separate charges of resisting police, assaulting police and a sexual act without consent.

Constable Allister Asprec found Russell in the garage of Ms Saha's home allegedly armed with the axe and knife.

The officer shouted "axe, axe" before firing four shots at Russell. Another officer, Constable Matthew Challenger, fired a further two rounds.

In footage played to the inquest from a camera on one officer's Taser, a volley of loud bangs can be heard as constables Asprec and Challenger fired their weapons.

Stanley Russell was fatally shot by police in November 2021 at his aunt's home in the Sydney. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

Russell was hit in the chest with one bullet and in the lower back by the fragment of a second which shattered after ricocheting off the floor. He collapsed and could only make groaning sounds when spoken to by police.

CPR was attempted five minutes after the gunshots, but failed to resuscitate him.

The cause of death was later determined to be a gunshot wound to the chest and the resultant significant blood loss. Forensic analysis could not determine which officer's gun ultimately fired the bullet which killed Russell.

The coroner heard Constable Asprec had not turned on his body-worn police camera during the arrest and Constable Challenger was not wearing one.

The two other officers, Senior Constable Adam Bodkin and Leading Senior Constable Aaron Prior, only turned their cameras on after entering the property.

While police allege Ms Saha invited them into her home, telling them her nephew was upstairs, she has rejected these claims. Instead, she says she never told them Russell was home but the police forced their way in after they heard someone cough inside.

Issues in the two-week long inquest will be the adequacy of police planning prior to the arrest attempt, the appropriateness of how police executed the warrant, and whether police followed appropriate procedures.

The inquest will also examine what information Corrective Services gave NSW Police regarding Russell's prior attempts at self-harm in custody, as well as the appropriateness of police training about how to deal with mentally ill Indigenous Australians.

The coroner has also been asked to examine the role of Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers within NSW Police and whether their roles could have been expanded to prevent the death.

The inquest continues on Tuesday.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

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