Police officer found not guilty of murder after he fatally shot an Indigenous teen in the Northern Territory

Constable Zachary Rolfe has avoided punishment for fatally shooting an Indigenous teenager, after he was found not guilty on three separate charges.

The fatal shooting of Kumanjayi Walker has been on trial for over a month, with the jury finding police officer Zachary Rolfe not guilty on charges of murder, manslaughter, and engaging in conduct involving a violent act causing death.

Rolfe shot the 19-year-old Warlpiri man three times during an attempted arrest in the Northern Territory community of Yuendumu in November 2019.

Rolfe found not guilty
Credit: ABC News/Michael Franchi

The jury was told that Kumanjayi Walker had stabbed Rolfe in the shoulder during the arrest, which is when the constable first shot the teenager. Then while Walker was restrained by Rolfe’s partner, Adam Eberl, the police officer shot him a second time from close range and then a third time, 0.5 seconds later.

Rolfe’s defence claimed that the police officer was acting in self defence to protect himself and and his partner. But the prosecution argued that the first shot was not part of the charges, and the second and third shots were not legally justified.

As per the The News Daily, prosecuting lawyer Philip Strickland SC said in his closing address that Rolfe had become obsessed with finding the 19-year-old after he became “preoccupied” with a video of Walker holding an axe, threatening to hurt other police officers.

After Rolfe was found not guilty, Kumanjayi Walker’s cousin, Samara Fernandez-Brown said, “We are deeply saddened by the results and cannot begin to explain our grief in words.” 

Since the 1991 Royal Commission, there have been more than 500 Indigenous deaths in custody, but not a single police officer has been convicted.