The police officer charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old indigenous man, will plead not guilty, the Northern Territory Police Association has said.
Kumanjayi Walker, 19, died after he was shot on Nov. 9 at Yuendumu, 300 kilometres west of Alice Springs, where two police officers were dispatched to arrest him for breaching his suspended sentence.
Constable Zach Rolfe, 28, who was charged with one count of murder over the teenager’s death, will be “vigorously defending the charge” against him, said NT Police Association President Paul McCue.
“The Northern Territory Police Association acknowledges that a decorated member has now been charged with murder in relation to a critical incident at Yuendumu on Saturday, Nov. 9,” he said, ABC News reported.
“Whilst we acknowledge the tragic circumstances of the event, the member has made it clear that he will plead not guilty and will vigorously contest the charge. He, like all, has the presumption of innocence in his favour.”
The 28-year-old officer was granted bail and is scheduled for a court appear pace in Alice Springs on Dec. 19.
“The officer has been suspended on pay,” police said.
Police said an internal investigation will be conducted into the fatal shooting.
At a press conference, NT Acting Deputy Commissioner Michael White urged the Northern Territory community to come together and “forget the hate, wrap around one another, make the Territory a better place.”
“Today is a sad day for the whole of the Northern Territory. I must call upon all Territorians to come together to work towards the future of our home,” White said.
“From the moment I heard about the incident, I knew lives would be forever impacted.
“The court will need to make a decision in respect of those actions. Everybody must respect that process.
“This process is free of political influence. Of that you can be assured, and you may always be assured of that while I am at the helm.”
NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker added, “I have police officers who are hurting, I have a community who is hurting.”
He added, “I need more than ever all of my officers to step to the fore—to trust in one another, to trust in the process, to remember the oath they took and the importance of integrity, ethics and fairness.”
The teenager, who was released from prison on Oct. 21 on property and stealing offences, passed away in a Yuendumu police station. There was reportedly no medical care available in the area due to safety concerns, and by the time a medical team arrived he had already died.