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Senior cop empathises with family over Indigenous death

By Aaron Bunch
Updated July 10 2024 - 6:20pm, first published 6:15pm
The effect of JC's death on her family was immeasurable, a senior police officer said. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)
The effect of JC's death on her family was immeasurable, a senior police officer said. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

A senior Western Australian policeman has expressed his sympathy for the family of an Indigenous woman shot dead by an officer.

Ngarlawangga Yamatji Martu woman JC was shot in a Geraldton street in September 2019 by then-Constable Brent Wyndham as she held a knife.

Officer Wyndham was charged and later found not guilty of murder and manslaughter of the 29-year-old, who had previously been diagnosed with drug-induced psychosis and schizophrenia.

At an inquest into her death on Wednesday, Deputy Police Commissioner Allan Adams said JC's death was deeply saddening.

"I share my sincere condolences with you and your family over the tragedy that has beset you," he said to JC's sister Bernadette Clarke in a Perth court after giving evidence.

"I know that JC was a mum, a daughter, an aunt, a niece. The impact on the family is immeasurable.

"I can't even try to comprehend what that means, how you deal with that."

He said he continued to work to improve relations between police and the Aboriginal community.

"I think we're better than what we have been," he said.

"We still have work to do in that regard and I give you my sincere commitment that I'll continue to do whatever I can to improve that relationship."

Mr Adams said better knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal people and the challenges many face would reduce "these types of incidents occurring".

During his evidence, the 40-year veteran said a triple-one line and a multi-agency contact centre should be established to respond to the growing number of mental health-related emergencies.

He said talks were under way about greater information sharing between the police and other agencies, such as the health department, to improve the response to people with mental health issues.

"A triple one will provide a significant opportunity for the best, earliest consideration of an individual's situation and then find the right people to go, and that may well be police," he said.

"If someone's walking in the community with a knife and a person rung up concerned about that, the police would be the first responders."

The inquest has been told a concerned person called triple zero after spotting JC with a knife.

Eight police officers responded to the scene and ordered JC to drop it but she ignored them and kept walking up the street.

Officer Wyndham fired a single round that hit her in the abdomen. She died about an hour later in hospital.

In the days before her death, JC had been released from prison and admitted to hospital after making threats to self-harm.

She was transferred to Perth and admitted to the psychiatry division of Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital where her health was assessed.

She was found to be at risk of fatally self-harming and potentially violent.

Her methamphetamine use, depressed mood and distress, and homelessness were all noted by the hospital.

She was released several days later and returned to Geraldton.

On the day she was shot she allegedly stole a four-pack of a pre-mixed vodka drink from a bottleshop and told family members "she was going to die that day".

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