Police officers warned Kumanjayi Walker's family before death, Zachary Rolfe's murder trial hears

Warning to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers: This story contains images of a person who has died.

The family of Yuendumu teenager Kumanjayi Walker was warned by local police, just three days before his death allegedly at the hands of NT officer Zachary Rolfe, that drawing a weapon on a city cop could get him shot.

Mr Rolfe has pleaded not guilty in the Darwin Supreme Court to the murder of 19-year-old Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker and two alternative lesser charges in relation to a fatal shooting that took place in the Central Australian Aboriginal community in November 2019.

On the third day of the trial, the jury was told of two incidents - just three days apart - where Mr Walker threatened police with a weapon when they tried to arrest him.

Zachary Rolfe, front, leaves the Darwin Supreme Court with supporters on the third day of his trial, and Kumanjayi Walker, inset,was involved in a violent incident with police three days before his death. Pictures: Sarah Matthews and Facebook

Zachary Rolfe, front, leaves the Darwin Supreme Court with supporters on the third day of his trial, and Kumanjayi Walker, inset,was involved in a violent incident with police three days before his death. Pictures: Sarah Matthews and Facebook

The first incident, which is being referred to as "the axe incident", involved local police officers Senior Constable First Class Christopher Hand and Senior Constable Lanyon Smith going to Mr Walker's house in Yuendumu on November 6. They went to arrest him for breaching a court order by fleeing an Alice Springs rehabilitation facility.

When they tried to arrest him, Mr Walker came at the two officers with a small axe. The officers backed away without drawing their weapons, allowing Mr Walker to flee the house.

The other is the incident that sparked the trial, when Mr Rolfe and four other officers were deployed from the nearest city of Alice Springs to arrest Mr Walker three days later.

When Mr Walker pulled out a weapon, this time a pair of medical scissors, Mr Rolfe fired three shots point blank into his chest.

A map of Yuendumu used by the Immediate Response Team on the night of Kumanjayi Walker's death. Picture: NT Supreme Court

A map of Yuendumu used by the Immediate Response Team on the night of Kumanjayi Walker's death. Picture: NT Supreme Court

The first witness of the day was Senior Constable Hand.

The court was shown footage from body worn cameras of the axe incident and the time afterwards, when the two officers returned to the scene to speak to Mr Walker's mother-in-law, Lottie Robertson.

Crown prosecutor Philip Strickland SC referred to a part of the footage where Senior Constable Hand is heard to tell Ms Robertson that "the next time he does that, he might get shot" if it involved an Alice Springs police officer.

"Community policemen, they're different to town policemen," Senior Constable Hand is heard to say.

DAY THREE: Zachary Rolfe leaves the Darwin Supreme Court with his supporters on the third day of his trial. Picture: Sarah Matthews

DAY THREE: Zachary Rolfe leaves the Darwin Supreme Court with his supporters on the third day of his trial. Picture: Sarah Matthews

When questioned about this, Senior Constable Hand told the court policing was done differently in Aboriginal communities.

"We always like to be as non-violent as we can with arrests, because we have to live in those areas, in those communities," he said.

"... we're trying to build partnerships with the people of the communities."

The next witness, Senior Constable Smith, was asked why he didn't draw his weapon, despite NT Police training saying officers should use their firearms when threatened with an edged weapon.

"I didn't feel that he was going to hurt me," Senior Constable Smith replied.

Kumanjayi Walker was involved in a violent incident with police three days before his death. Picture: Facebook

Kumanjayi Walker was involved in a violent incident with police three days before his death. Picture: Facebook

"Kumanjayi, being a Warlpiri man, it was more of a show to his partner, who was in the room, and his family.

"But he just wanted to get away."

Yuendumu Officer in Charge Sergeant Julie Frost requested the help of the Alice Springs Immediate Response Team, which included Mr Rolfe, in arresting Mr Walker.

The court heard Mr Rolfe watched body worn-camera footage of the axe incident 10 times in the afternoon afterwards, before heading to Yuendumu on November 9.

POLICE WITNESS: Witness Acting Senior Sergeant Evan Kelly, right, leaves the Darwin Supreme Court.

POLICE WITNESS: Witness Acting Senior Sergeant Evan Kelly, right, leaves the Darwin Supreme Court.

In his opening address, Mr Strickland told the court the prosecution argued the response team officers who watched that footage in the Alice Springs police station, including Mr Rolfe, "criticised Hand and Smith for not taking firmer action against Walker".

When asked about this, one of the officers present at the time and the third witness of the day - Acting Senior Sergeant Evan Kelly - said he did not remember any specific comments from Mr Rolfe or otherwise.

The trial continues.

This story Police officers warned Kumanjayi Walker's family before his death, court hears first appeared on Katherine Times.