The team of police officers who set out to arrest Kumanjayi Walker on the night he died were only deployed to provide respite for the overstretched local officers, the NT Assistant Police Commissioner has told the Zachary Rolfe murder trial.
Assistant Commissioner Travis Wurst became the most senior police officer to give evidence at the month-long trial of Constable Rolfe, who stands charged with the alleged murder of 19-year-old Yuendumu man Kumanjayi Walker.
Assistant Commissioner Wurst gave authorisation for Constable Rolfe and three other members of the Immediate Response Team, as well as a police dog and handler, to be deployed from Alice Springs to Yuendumu - about 300km away - on the evening of November 9, 2019.
Another police witness, Superintendent Jody Nobbs, told the trial on Monday he wanted the response team to be sent because members were "highly skilled, highly trained [and] highly disciplined".
However, when it was put to him during cross-examination by Constable Rolfe's lawyer, David Edwardson QC, Assistant Commissioner Wurst said he did not agree with that description and that Superintendent Nobbs did not pass on that intention.
"The [response team], no, but the patrol dog and handler fits into that capability," he told the court on Thursday.
"At that point in time [when the team was conceived in 2015], I wouldn't suggest that was the case at all. I don't know how it had matured or what the status was [at the time of the shooting]."
Assistant Commissioner Wurst said he thought the response team had been deployed, not for their skills, but because they would be the most likely to be able to go at short notice.
He said he didn't understand them to have been requested to arrest Mr Walker, but to help the officers in Yuendumu who had been stretched thin following a period of community unrest.
"I wasn't deploying the [Immediate Response Team] as the [Immediate Response Team], I was deploying officers to support the police at Yuendumu for a respite," he said.
"It was not, in my view, a high-risk deployment. It was a deployment to provide general support to police officers in Yuendumu."
Previous police witnesses have told the court they deemed the deployment to be high-risk because of an incident three days before the shooting, when Mr Walker ran at two officers with an axe as they tried to arrest him for breaching a court order.
The officers backed away when Mr Walker had the axe, allowing him to flee, but body worn camera footage of the incident was widely shared among Alice Springs police officers, including the accused.
Mr Walker had fled a residential rehabilitation centre in Alice Springs to travel to Yuendumu to attend the funeral of his great-uncle. This took place on the day of the shooting.
Assistant commissioner Wurst also told the court he thought Mr Walker's family planned to hand him over to police after the funeral.
"The funeral that was going to occur later that day and their efforts would be undertaken utilising family and family relationships to facilitate the surrender," he said.
Constable Rolfe and three fellow response team members packed their camouflage uniforms and an AR-15 assault rifle.
The court also heard from a number of Mr Walker's relatives in Yuendumu, as well as people who happened to be in the community on the night of the shooting.
Mr Walker's aunt, Louanna Williams, told the court she spoke with her nephew in the days between the axe incident and his death.
"He told me about the incident that happened, that he came out with an axe, but he never meant to hurt anybody there," Ms Williams told the court.
"He wanted to be arrested after the funeral ... he knew that he was in trouble."
Ms Williams said her nephew also denied being involved in a spate of break-ins that lead to all the local health staff leaving the community on the day of the shooting, contradicting evidence given by response team officer Constable James Kirstenfeldt on Tuesday, that Mr Walker was the ringleader.
Constable Rolfe shot Mr Walker three times in the chest during an attempted arrest, in response to Mr Walker jabbing him in the arm with a pair of surgical scissors.
Prosecutors have conceded the first shot, which was fired while Mr Walker was standing and resisting arrest, was justified.
But it says the fatal second and third shots when Mr Walker was laying on the ground went "too far" because he was "effectively restrained".
Mr Walker died from injuries sustained from one of those shots.
He has pleaded not guilty to murder and two alternative lesser charges.
The trial continues.
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