Final moments before death of Kumanjayi Walker

He was a decorated rookie cop commended for his bravery.

Today, he stands accused of the shooting murder of a young Aboriginal man.

Footage from police body cams will likely play a vital role in finding out exactly what happened last Saturday night that led to the final moments of the teenager’s life.

Police and the family of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker dispute what occurred in those fraught and violent few minutes before Constable Zachary Rolfe allegedly shot him either two or three times, splattering his blood across a mattress.

The footage may shed a light on why the cop made the decision to unload his firearm.

Police said Mr Walker was attacking officers. His family say the force used was out of proportion and he could have been Tasered rather than shot multiple times.

There are also questions as to why there were no medical staff in Yuendumu, deep in the Northern Territory, that night.

And why locals weren’t told of Mr Walker’s death until about 10 hours after it was confirmed as police tuned off the lights at the station and refused to speak to the distraught family outside.

Yesterday, Constable Rolfe, 28, was charged with murder.

At court hearing in Alice Springs, Constable Rolfe was granted bail and suspended with pay. The NT Police Association said he would plead not guilty. He is understood to have now left the Territory due to death threats.

The killing, which has been declared a death in custody, has stirred up ongoing anger about the deaths of Aboriginal people at the hands of police.

Again, questions are being raised as to whether the police’s responses to incidents involving Aboriginal Australians veer too quickly to lethal force.

This morning, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner urged people to let the justice system do its job.

“There are many people hurting in Yuendumu and around the Northern Territory and in our police force,” he said.

“As Territorians we have been through challenging times before, we cannot and will not let this divide us.”


Constable Rolfe was a decorated officer before he was charged with murder.

According to the NT News, he was a star pupil at exclusive private school Canberra Grammar before joining Northern Territory Police in 2016.

Just days after he graduated from police college, he rescued two Hong Kong tourists who had been swept away in floodwaters at Alice Springs.

His valour won him the National Bravery Medal and the Royal Humane Society’s Clarke Medal for bravery, and Hong Kong awarded him the Bronze Medal for Bravery, the first time a foreigner had been given the gong for an incident outside of the Chinese territory.


As last Saturday dawned, police set off for Yuendumu, 300km northwest of Alice Springs.

Their plan was to arrest Mr Walker, a Warlpiri man. He was released from prison in October after serving eight of a 16-month sentence for unlawful entry, property damage and stealing offences with the remainder suspended, AAP reported.

But Mr Walker was allegedly breached his parole by removing an electronic monitoring device, among other offences.

Police had agreed to postpone the arrest to later that day to allow Mr Walker to attend the funeral of a relative.

It was a busy day in Yuendumu. As police were arriving and the funeral preparations were under way, medical staff were shipping out. There had been break-ins at the local clinic and rocks thrown through the car windows of staff. Health bosses said it wasn’t safe.

Once the funeral was done, at least two officers, including Constable Rolfe, went to arrest Mr Walker. It was 7pm and there was no immediate medical staff available should the arrest turn violent.

Which it did in the worst way.

“They came with two police cars; one parked on the other side of the house,” witness Elizabeth Snape told The Australian.

According to some reports, Mr Walker was on his bed looking at his phone when police entered the property.

The NT News has quoted a source “close to the police” who said there was “face-to-face combat” between Mr Walker and the officers. One officer was reportedly stabbed, which allegedly led to the teen to be shot.

“During that time a struggle ensued and two shots were fired and he sadly passed away later,” NT acting deputy commissioner Michael White said.

The teenager allegedly lunged at one officer as the pair tried to arrest him.

“My understanding is he was armed with a weapon,” Mr White said.

Family members aren’t convinced by this version of events.

“Why was Kumanjayi shot three times? Why don’t police use a Taser gun or pepper spray or handcuffs?” Ned Jampijinpa Hargreaves, a Yuendumu resident, told the NT News.

The family of Mr Walker has circulated an image of a bloodstained mattress with what they claim is the casing from a bullet fired by the police.

The family had requested to see the body cam video recorded during the incident.


Yuendumu resident Senita Granites told National indigenous Television (NITV) she witnessed police load Mr Walker into the police vehicle.

“I went outside and I saw them drag him by the leg and chucked him in the paddy wagon,” she said.

Mr Walker was taken to Yuendumu’s police station. Already a crowd was gathering.

He was seriously injured, as was the officer with a wound close to an artery.

But the nearest medical staff were in Yuelamu, an hour’s drive away.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service did not immediately leave for Yuendumu because it could not be sure the area “was a safe and secure environment for the crew to land” the service stated.

When the ambulance finally arrived, one local shouted, “You’re late, you’re f***ing late,” according to the ABC.

The NT Heath Department said two of its staff were injured as they entered the police station.

Mr Walker was confirmed dead about 9pm. However, the community was not informed until 7am the next day when police reinforcements arrived.

Indeed, police had locked the station doors and turned the lights off overnight as increasingly frustrated locals demanded to know Mr Walker’s condition.

No family members were allowed to see him until his death was confirmed.


Lawyer and academic at La Trobe University, Russell Marks, said police tactics in the Territory needed to be reviewed.

“Far too often, police in the NT simply barge into people’s homes in large numbers,” he told The Monthly.

“On one occasion, six officers entered the house of one of my clients to arrest him on a warrant for not appearing in court as a witness.

“Sometimes barging in is necessary if, for instance, the person is being violent. Much more often it’s not, and police risk their own and others’ safety by doing so.”

The death sparked demonstrations in Alice Springs and Darwin as well as in Sydney and Melbourne.


Today, NT Police Association president Paul McCue said the officer would “vigorously defend” the charges.

“Whilst we acknowledge the tragic circumstances of the event … he, like all, has the presumption of innocence in his favour.”

NT Police commissioner Jamie Chalker today appealed for officers to keep doing their jobs, despite their colleague’s arrest.

“My police force’s strength is as strong as my weakest link,” he said.

“I need, more than ever, all of my officers to step to the fore. To trust in the process. To remember the oath.”

He said a number of Aboriginal people had made contact with him, “to check in on my officers and to show their respect for the process that has occurred to date”.

“Hate should not have a place in the Northern Territory,” Mr Chalker said.

He and Mr Gunner visited Yuendumu on Tuesday.

But many in the local community haven’t been reassured.

“They both said they were sorry to hear what had happened,” Mr Hargreaves told the NT News.

“(But) we’re still not satisfied and we’re still not happy.”

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