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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Nino Bucci

Zachary Rolfe trial: Kumanjayi Walker continued to struggle after being shot, court hears

Remote Sgt Adam Eberl (left) outside the supreme court in Darwin
Remote Sgt Adam Eberl (left) outside the supreme court in Darwin, where he has given evidence in Constable Zachary Rolfe’s murder trial. Photograph: Aaron Bunch/AAP

A police officer involved in the arrest of Kumanjayi Walker has agreed in evidence before the Northern Territory supreme court that the Warlpiri man continued “fucking around” and “was not incapacitated” after being shot three times.

Remote Sgt Adam Eberl was the only other person in the room when Constable Zachary Rolfe shot Walker on 9 November 2019 at a house in the remote community of Yuendumu, about 300km from Alice Springs.

On Wednesday, Eberl continued his evidence in Rolfe’s trial for murder. Rolfe is charged in relation to the second and third shots fired at Walker, which the prosecution has told the court were delivered at close-range while Eberl and Walker were struggling on a mattress on the floor of the property.

Rolfe has pleaded not guilty in the Northern Territory supreme court and defends his actions on the basis they were justified in light of the risk to him and Eberl posed by Walker, who had stabbed Rolfe with a pair of scissors shortly before the shooting.

Eberl told the court on Wednesday that he did not know Walker had been shot until after the third shot had been fired. In court, he was played body-worn camera footage of the incident, which detailed him saying to Rolfe, “did you? Fuck”. He agreed with Philip Strickland SC, for the prosecution, that at that time he was asking Rolfe if he had shot Walker.

Eberl said he heard a “dull thud” when the first shot was fired, while he was standing and wrestling with Walker. He believed a bean bag round may have been fired by another officer who had been outside the property, as the noise did not sound like a shot.

Soon after, Eberl and Walker ended up on the mattress, the court heard.

Eberl said he knew Walker had a sharp weapon in his right hand, but did not know what it was. He said he used his left arm to grab Walker’s left arm, and, while standing, tried to apply a police manoeuvre known as a “seatbelt hold”.

Once they were on the mattress, Eberl told the court he used both arms to try to contain Walker’s left arm, knowing that Walker’s right arm was underneath his own body. Eberl said he wanted to try to stop Walker from turning his right arm towards him.

Eberl, who previously confirmed in his evidence more than a decade’s experience in martial arts and weighed about 95kg at the time of the incident, told Strickland that he could not remember seeing or feeling Walker’s upper body move between the time he fell with him on to the mattress and when he heard the third shot.

He said he could not see the scissors while he was on top of Walker, and agreed with Strickland that he was attempting to use ground stabilisation techniques he had learned during police training while struggling with Walker.

Strickland told the court during his opening address that it would be alleged Eberl had control of Walker, 19, when he was shot for the second and third time by Rolfe. Lawyers for Rolfe have previously said they will dispute the extent to which Walker was under control.

Eberl said on Wednesday that while he could not recall seeing or feeling Walker’s upper body move during this time, “I believe he was trying to move the whole time”.

Under cross-examination by David Edwardson QC, for Rolfe, Eberl was asked about being captured on body-worn camera footage saying to Walker “don’t fuck around, I’ll fucken smash ya mate” soon after the third shot was fired. Officers were attempting to handcuff Walker about the time Eberl is heard uttering the remarks.

Edwardson asked whether Eberl had said this because, despite having being shot three times, Walker was “still fucking around, he was not incapacitated?”

“Correct,” Eberl responded.

Eberl later gave evidence that NT police training dictates that an offender with an edged weapon can be fired upon until they are incapacitated.

The trial continues.

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