An Indigenous woman shot dead by a policeman in Western Australia had been trying to get home to her foster mother and young son, a court has heard.
The first-class constable has pleaded not guilty to murdering the 29-year-old woman, known as JC at the request of her family, in the mid-west town of Geraldton on 17 September 2019.
JC, a mother of one, had experienced mental health and drug problems and had recently been released from prison before she was shot dead.
The accused constable, who can’t be named for legal reasons, was one of eight police officers who swarmed a suburban street where JC was seen carrying a large knife and a pair of scissors.
Confronting CCTV footage of the shooting was shown to the jury at the start of the trial.
The director of public prosecutions, Amanda Forrester SC, 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, firing his weapon less than three seconds after she stopped walking.
Given his extensive training, the number of officers present and other available weapons, the shooting was “wholly unnecessary”, Forrester said. She told the jury on Tuesday that footage showed “she did not take one step, at all, in any direction, let alone towards a police officer”.
The WA supreme court trial on Wednesday heard evidence from multiple witnesses who had interacted with JC on the day of the shooting.
That morning, she had been kicked out of a shopping centre and stolen alcohol from a liquor store. She then went to a community centre seeking help to get to Mullewa, about 100km north of Geraldton, where her foster mother Anne Jones lived with JC’s young son.
“She was upset and crying. She just said she wanted to go home,” Wajarri Community Office manager Raelene Clayton-Bonney told the court on Wednesday.
Jones spoke to JC over the phone and tried to persuade her to wait until the next day when transport to Mullewa could be arranged. But she was unable to calm JC down and believed she may have been under the influence of drugs because of her angry mood.
“She said ‘You can’t help me’,” an emotional Jones said.
JC later visited family where she smoked cannabis and got into an altercation with one relative, threatening to kill her and herself, the court was told.
The concerned relative called Jones who advised her to call the police and see if they could conduct a welfare check.
Within hours of the call, JC was dead, having been shot once in the abdomen from close range by the accused.
Defence lawyer Linda Black 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, with JC standing about three metres away and refusing to drop the knife.
Black told the court on Tuesday that the accused had been forced to act to protect himself and others including the unarmed officer, adding that the case had “nothing whatsoever” to do with race.
She asked members of the jury what they would want to happen if such an incident unfolded in their own street or their home.
The trial continues.