A RIOT squad officer who pointed his firearm at a terrified young girl during a series of early morning raids on Palm Island in 2004 says the moment “sticks” in his mind.
Sergeant Wade Folpp was the final witness to give evidence as part of a massive class action lodged against the state of Queensland by convicted rioter Lex Wotton on behalf of the Palm Island community.Barrister Scott McLeod, for the state of Queensland, asked Sgt Folpp what he remembered about a raid at a two-storey house.
Sgt Folpp said he entered the kitchen with his firearm at the “ready position” and saw a young girl standing in the corner. “I trained my weapon on her,” he said, estimating they were about 2m to 3m apart. “It was an instinct thing … something we train for … and as soon as I assessed she was not a threat, I lowered my weapon. It would have been a matter of seconds … I could tell she was scared.”
Sgt Folpp said the girl immediately followed his instructions to get down on the ground and he said he took off his balaclava to try to provide a “human element” and ease the girl’s fears.
Officers from the Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) were deployed after residents rioted in response to the death in custody of Cameron “Mulrunji” Doomadgee on November 19, 2004.The arresting officer, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, was charged with Mr Doomadgee’s manslaughter but acquitted.
The Federal Court heard on Friday 18 March 2016 that SERT officers were sent to the island on November 26, 2004 and were shown pictures of people suspected of rioting and setting fire to the police station, a police house, barracks and courthouse. The following morning, teams of SERT officers carried out a number of raids, starting at the Wotton residence.
Mr McLeod asked Sgt Folpp what he remembered about the raid.He said Superintendent Rod Kruger directed Mr Wotton to get on the ground “three, four, five times” before he was hit with a Taser.
The case has now been adjourned until May 10.
Reference: The Townsville Bulletin.