An Indigenous woman shot dead by a police officer in Western Australia had “lunged” towards officers while holding a knife, an eyewitness claims.
The first-class constable is facing trial in the WA supreme court accused of murdering the 29-year-old mother of one, known as JC at her family’s request.
He was one of eight police officers who swarmed a suburban street where JC was seen carrying a large knife and a pair of scissors in Geraldton on 17 September 2019.
The court has previously heard JC, who had experienced mental health and drug problems and had recently been released from prison, was shot once in the abdomen from close range by the accused while surrounded by police vehicles.
The accused officer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admits causing JC’s death but has pleaded not guilty to her murder.
His trial on Thursday heard evidence from Geraldton man Johannes Calitz, who had called triple zero while driving home after seeing a person carrying a large knife down the street.
Calitz had initially mistaken JC, who was wearing a hoodie, for a man.
He told the court he parked his car about 30 metres away from the site of the shooting and had an unobstructed view, describing how he saw one officer pointing a Taser at JC and another pointing an object he couldn’t make out.
He said the person with the knife took a “big step” towards the two officers, who he estimated were standing about four metres away.
“They raised both their hands and lunged towards the officers,” Calitz told the court. He then heard a gunshot and saw JC fall to the ground.
Recordings of police radio calls were also played to the court, including one from moments after the shooting.
“Geraldton base, we need an ambulance immediately to our location. One shot fired,” the officer is heard saying in a distressed tone.
Opening the trial, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Amanda Forrester SC, said CCTV footage showed JC “did not take one step, at all, in any direction, let alone towards a police officer”.
Forrester said five of the officers had stayed in their cars, a sixth left his vehicle unarmed and attempted to speak to JC, and another had drawn his Taser but had not activated it. The accused got out of his vehicle, drew his loaded firearm and ran towards JC.
“Less than three seconds after she stopped walking, the accused shot her in the abdomen,” Forrester has said when describing the shooting as “wholly unnecessary”.
The accused, who is on bail, had spent five years as a permanent officer and 18 months as a probationary constable.
Defence lawyer Linda Black has said the officer was “not some trigger-happy constable” and had never previously fired his gun while on duty. He had “less than a second” to take action or risk serious harm to himself and others, she told the court earlier this week.