I have always been amazed that there has been any controversy over the shooting of Steven Wallace. I’ve criticised the cops on many occasions, but not for shooting a guy who is trying to kill them. If armed cops tell you to drop your baseball bat, and you not only refuse but you keep advancing on the officer proclaiming you are going to kill him – well I call it suicide by cop. He even continued to advance after they fired a warning shot .
Anyway the Independent Police Conduct Authority has spent almost a year doing a full review of what happened. This is the new IPCA which doesn’t just review internal police investigations but has the resources to independtly investigate.
The Herald reports on their conclusions:
- Steven Wallace engaged in a “lengthy and violent rampage” through Waitara armed with a baseball bat and golf club, “borne of an unexplained rage, which showed no signs of abating”.
- Constable Keith Abbott was justified in arming himself and using the gun within the law and police procedures.
- Mr Wallace had a history of violence.
- Constable Abbott had no other option available to him.
- No evidence supported rumours that Constable Abbott had been drinking at two social functions before the shooting.
- The lack of communication between Constables Abbott and Dombroski reflected the urgency of the situation they faced.
- Police should have done more for Mr Wallace after the shooting, when they refused to give him first aid and did not put a blanket offered by a witness over him. But even if first aid was provided it would not have saved his life.
The IPCA make it very clear that Wallace was not killed for breaking windows:
“Steven Wallace was shot, not because he had broken windows, or because he was resisting or escaping from arrest, but because Senior Constable Abbott had reasonable grounds to fear for his own life and for that of Constable Dombroski,” said Authority Chair Justice Lowell Goddard.
The full report is a 45 page pdf. I suggest people read it – it is very thorough. Fo those who think Wallace was just breaking some windows in a deserted area of town and no threat to anyone:
Steven then stopped on the corner of McLean Street and Domett Street, where he got out of his vehicle and began to smash glass panes in the surrounding buildings. As the taxi passed, after having dropped off its passenger, he crossed the road swinging a baseball bat and smashed the driver’s window as it drove past, giving the taxi driver the impression that he was aiming for the windscreen.
On two occasions, Steven also moved aggressively towards a car containing some young people who knew him. The driver left in a hurry each time.
At some stage, Steven also drove at high speed directly towards a security guard on a bicycle. The guard feared for his life and went immediately to the petrol station to report the incident.
The whole notion that the Police should have just left him alone to smash windows is farcical. And when the Police did turn up:
Raising the club in both hands, he used it to smash the windscreen directly in front of Constable Herbert’s face. As she attempted to reverse away, Steven pulled the head of the golf club out of the broken windscreen and launched a second attack on the Police car, this time smashing a side window.
There is a world of difference between smashing a shop window, and smashing the windscreen of a car a police officer is sitting in. And at the scene:
Constable Dombroski’s evidence was that, after the warning shot had been fired, Steven Wallace appeared even more determined to get to Senior Constable Abbott, saying “You fucking arsehole, I’m going to kill you”.
Constable Dombroski said he did not fire any shots himself. However, believing that Steven intended to kill Senior Constable Abbott, he was preparing to shoot when Senior Constable Abbott fired at Steven.
I can’t think of how anyone can dispute the justification for shooting. Wallace is advancing on armed police, he has ignored a warning shot, he is closing the gap despite the Police retreating (he would be alive if he had stopped advancing on them), he is telling the Police he is going to kill them, and he has a weapon which would allow him to quite easily do so.
Constable Abbott has now been cleared by a police inquiry, a private prosecution, by the coroner and by the IPCA. Despite this the family remain hell bent on vengeance. For their own sake they should let go.