Investigation into the death of an indigenous man Mr. Riley learns that the police were ‘justified’ to use taser

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Police say they were ‘100 percent justified’ by tasering an indigenous father of six and pinning him to the ground for seven minutes before dying

  • 29-year-old Mr. Riley died after being tagged and pinned to the ground by the police
  • The father of six had a history of drug-induced psychosis and was very strong
  • He was approached by police outside an Officeworks in Perth before a fight
  • Later died after being tagged by the police and attempted to resuscitate him

Police who tasered and restrained an indigenous man in Perth have told an inquest into his death that their use of force was ‘100 percent’ justified.

Coroner Michael Jenkin is investigating the death in May 2017 of 39-year-old Mr. Riley, whose first name is not used for cultural reasons.

The father of six, who had a history of drug-induced psychosis, was approached by agents Rory Winterburn and James Wolfe outside an Officeworks store in East Perth after rocking side to side and slapping the forehead.

They called triple-zero to request an ambulance when Mr. Riley failed to contact them.

Mr Riley died after being tagged and restrained by police from outside and officeworks in Perth

Mr Riley died after being tagged and restrained by police from outside and officeworks in Perth

Const Winterburn told the inquest on Wednesday that Mr. Riley had then jumped to his feet, approached the couple and shouted, “I’m going to kill you.”

The pair backed off and warned him to stay where he was before Const Winterburn fired his Taser, causing Mr. Riley to fall over.

Trying to restrain the man lying forward as he struggled, they asked a civilian witness for help by sitting on Mr. Riley’s legs until the backup arrived.

The inquest is shown with confronting footage of Mr Riley wailing as he was pinned to his front by multiple agents for seven minutes before an ambulance arrived.

Attempts were made to resuscitate him on the spot before he died in hospital.

A pathologist found that his cause of death was consistent with cardiac arrhythmias “after violent exercise requiring physical restraint in a man with methylamphetamine effect, known systemic hypertension, and morbid obesity.”

Mr. Riley's family (pictured) wept in distress as footage played of police restraining him

Mr. Riley's family (pictured) wept in distress as footage played of police restraining him

Mr. Riley’s family (pictured) wept in distress as footage played of police restraining him

Mr Riley's family gathering outside Coroner's Court in Perth on Tuesday

Mr Riley's family gathering outside Coroner's Court in Perth on Tuesday

Mr Riley’s family gathering outside Coroner’s Court in Perth on Tuesday

The inquest revealed that Mr. Riley had tried to grab the gun in Const Wolfe’s holster and bit his arm, causing him to bleed profusely.

Const Winterburn’s Taser triggered 10 times in less than two minutes.

He said he could only initially remember firing the weapon three times, believing that only the first discharge had reached neuromuscular disability.

Asked if he believed the use of force was necessary in the circumstances, Const Winterburn replied, “100 percent, yes.”

Mr. Riley had shown “extreme strength” and resisted harder and longer than anyone else he’d experienced as a police officer.

“ I feel like we would have (otherwise) lost control and the threat level would have escalated, ” he said.

Const Winterburn said he was left “shellshocked” afterward and suffered from depression and anxiety.

Under questioning by Greg McIntyre SC, who represented Mr. Riley’s family, Const Wolfe said his holster had a locking mechanism that prevented access to his Glock pistol.

Mr. McIntyre suggested that grabbing the gun was “a pretty remote possibility.”

“Just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen,” Const Wolfe replied.

Both officers said they were aware of the risks of positional asphyxiation in people under police restraint, but had not taken it into account at this time.

Police outside the scene where Mr. Riley was tagged in 2017 after talking to police officers

Police outside the scene where Mr. Riley was tagged in 2017 after talking to police officers

Police outside the scene where Mr. Riley was tagged in 2017 after talking to police officers

An internal report by the WA police concluded that there was no criminal behavior by officers.

Mr. Riley had previously been convicted of assaulting a police officer and an ambulance officer. His family was concerned about his well-being and he had been arrested by the police for driving erratically the night before his death.

He was later seen outside the Royal Perth Hospital shouting ‘police are after me, why are they after me?’.

The Perth court has refused to release footage of the police confrontation with Mr Riley, despite protests from his family.

The judicial investigation continues.

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