Thursday, 29 May 2008

Shot man having psychotic episode

A Canberra man shot by police and left a quadriplegic was warned at least twice to stop advancing before a federal officer fired his gun, an ACT court has heard.

Jonathan Anthony Crowley, 40, is suing, for unspecified damages, the commonwealth, the ACT government and the police officer who shot him when he was having a psychotic episode in late 2001.

Mr Crowley believed he was Jesus Christ and had 1,000 years to save the earth when he took to the streets of Chapman in southern Canberra on December 11 wielding a 1.2 metre-long kendo bamboo stick.

He was shot in the neck after attacking an Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer who was trying to arrest him.

The ACT Supreme Court heard from an eyewitness to the shooting for the first time on Thursday.

Leonard Richter was working with his father installing an air-conditioning unit in a house in Chapman on the day Mr Crowley took to the streets with the stick.

Mr Richter told Justice Hilary Penfold he heard a commotion and rushed outside where his father told him he had been hit by a man with a stick.

He saw a police car arrive at the scene and two officers confront Mr Crowley.

"One officer attempted to spray the gentleman (Mr Crowley)," Mr Richter told the court.

"That didn't thwart his actions."

The court has heard senior constables Glenn Pitkethly and Ben Willis were first on the scene after leaving a command point just 800 metres away.

Mr Richter said Mr Crowley struck the officer with a "quite heavy, forceful" blow.

After Snr Const Willis fell into some bushes Snr Const Pitkethly tried to strike Mr Crowley with his baton which then "ended up on the ground".

Snr Const Pitkethly then took a number of steps backwards before pulling out his firearm, Mr Richter said.

"I distinctly remember hearing: 'Stop or I will shoot' at least two or three times," he said.

But Mr Crowley "just kept coming ... as if the officer didn't have a gun".

Then "the officer shot ... pulled the trigger".

Last week, former NSW Police assistant commissioner Norman Hazzard told the court the officers should have stayed in their police car and waited for back-up before confronting Mr Crowley.

Asked by Snr Const Pitkethly's lawyer, Peter Semmler QC, how he would have felt had the police "run off", Mr Richter replied: "I would have been very disappointed".

"Police are supposed to protect the public."

However, under cross-examination from Mr Crowley's lawyer, Bernard Gross QC, Mr Richter said he could have "unconsciously" absorbed some of the details from his father's account of events.

Thursday is the last day of the hearing for nine months.

The hearing will resume in late February 2009 due to a lack of civil court dates before then.

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