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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Nino Bucci

NT sergeant tells court Zachary Rolfe is an accurate marksman trained to contain high-risk events

Zachary Rolfe (centre) departs the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, in Darwin
Constable Zachary Rolfe, who has been charged with the murder of Kumanjayi Walker in the remote Northern Territory community of Yuendumu, was a senior officer in the immediate response group and a good marksman, court hears. Photograph: Aaron Bunch/AAP

A Northern Territory sergeant who trained Constable Zachary Rolfe has described him in court as a senior member of a specialist response team and good marksman.

Sgt Lee Bauwens also said in the NT supreme court on Thursday that Rolfe achieved perfect scores in shooting training, and had later assisted him in some training sessions.

Bauwens was giving evidence during Rolfe’s trial for murder. Rolfe is charged with murdering Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu, a remote community about 300km from Alice Springs, on 9 November 2019.

The court has previously heard that Walker, a 19-year-old Warlpiri man, stabbed Rolfe while the officer was trying to arrest him. Rolfe then shot Walker three times. The murder charge relates to the second two shots, which the prosecution alleges were fired at close range while Walker was on the ground under the control of another officer, Adam Eberl.

Rolfe has pleaded not guilty and defends his actions on the basis they were justified in light of the risk Walker posed to him and Eberl. The defence also disputes that Walker was under control at the time of the shots.

On Wednesday, Bauwens gave evidence that he performed Rolfe’s induction training when he joined the immediate response team (IRT) in either late 2017 or early 2018.

The court heard the team, which Bauwens led and helped create, is a squad of general duties officers who receive additional training that enables them to be deployed to support other police or cordon and contain high-risk events until specialist officers arrive.

In continuing his evidence on Thursday, Bauwens described Rolfe as a senior member of the IRT. He said that a training record tendered in evidence to the court had shown Rolfe hit 15 out of 15 targets while using a primary weapon, which Bauwens said would have been an AR-15 rifle, and all six targets using his secondary weapon, a Glock semi-automatic handgun.

Bauwens was asked extensive questions by prosecutor Philip Strickland SC about the defensive tactics and cordon-and-contain training that Rolfe had received. Strickland told the court in opening his case that the context leading up to the shooting, including Rolfe’s training and the planning undertaken before the IRT travelled to Yuendumu, was relevant to the murder charge.

David Edwardson QC, for Rolfe, also asked Bauwens about NT police training, including a manoeuvre Bauwens described as a “shove and shoot”.

Bauwens said this was specifically taught to officers as training for how to respond when confronted with an edged weapon by an offender who was in close proximity, and it involved shoving or hitting the offender with one arm while using the other to draw the gun and fire at the offender.

Under questioning from Edwardson, Bauwens agreed that all NT police were trained to only use force when necessary, and to only use force that was reasonable and proportionate to the threat.

“In other words, if someone is brandishing a chopstick, you don’t pull out your gun, do you?” Edwardson said.

“Not generally, no,” Bauwens responded.

Edwardson then asked: “On the other hand, if they produced an edged weapon which is potentially lethal, then you’re told you’re entitled to deploy your weapon and you have to, if necessary, be prepared to pull the trigger?”

“That’s correct,” Bauwens said.

The trial continues.

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