‘Murderer’ comment was a joke, former cop tells NT inquest

Former cop Zachary Rolfe told an inquest his social media comment was about his treatment by media.

Former cop Zachary Rolfe told an inquest his social media comment was about his treatment by media. Photo: AAP

The Northern Territory police officer who fatally shot an Indigenous teenager during an attempted arrest says he made a comment about murderers and war criminals on a social media post as a joke about his treatment by the media.

Zachary Rolfe shot Kumanjayi Walker three times at Yuendumu in November 2019.

He was acquitted of murder during a five-week trial in 2022 and no longer serves as a police officer.

An inquest into the 19-year-old Warlpiri and Luritja man’s death was told on Monday Rolfe had posted a comment on a picture of himself and former soldier Ben Roberts-Smith, as a joke about himself.

The comment read “just a couple of cops/murderers and war criminals having a lovely day in the sun”.

Rolfe said he had been making a joke about “the fact I’ve been called a murderer and treated like that” by the NT police force and the media.

When asked whether his comment revealed a “deep disrespect” for those who had suffered as a result of Walker’s death, Rolfe disagreed but said he could “see how it’s taken that way”.

“I think people will be able to become offended by things that I say regardless of the intention behind it,” he said.

“I’ve dealt with the sadness of taking Kumanjayi’s life … but I refuse to wallow in it, if I need to laugh rather than cry, I will laugh.”

The inquest was shown body-worn camera footage of Mr Rolfe striking an Aboriginal man in the head in September 2019, weeks before shooting Mr Walker.

When Mr Rolfe was asked whether he punched the young man, he said “it might have been a small slap”.

The footage showed the man hitting the bonnet of a police car with his hand before being struck by Mr Rolfe.

The strike may have been a “fear-based response” to the noise the man made when hitting the car, the former police officer told the inquest.

It also heard from Mr Rolfe’s former manager Sergeant Lee Bauwens on Monday, who was grilled about the culture within the NT Police Force and its Territory Response Group.

Mr Rolfe had previously tendered to the inquest, certificates for racist awards allegedly handed out at Territory Response Group parties.

Sgt Bauwens was the recipient of a ‘noogadah’ award during his time at the tactical response group.

Counsel assisting the coroner Patrick Coleridge asked Sgt Bauwens about the origins of the award being for an “outstanding lack of hygiene” and the name chosen for the award being a “made-up Indigenous name”.

“What was the connection, in your mind, between a lack of hygiene and Aboriginality?,” Mr Coleridge asked.

“That is the link, that some Indigenous have poor hygiene,” Sgt Bauwens said.

The coroner was shown a number of the certificates, which included racist language.

“I think we all know that the ‘noogadah’ award is racist,” Sgt Bauwens said.

The inquest into Mr Walker’s death was initially expected to run for three months, but is now closer to two years since it began in September 2022.

Coroner Elisabeth Armitage is expected to conclude taking evidence on Wednesday.



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