Zachary Rolfe.
Constable Zach Rolfe told the inquest he lied about drug use and other matters in his application. Image by Rudi Maxwell/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime, law and justice

Rolfe says family ‘must take responsibility’ for death

Neve Brissenden February 29, 2024

A former Northern Territory police constable who shot dead an Indigenous teenager believes the man’s family must bear some responsibility for the death.

Zachary Rolfe shot Kumanjayi Walker, 19, three times as he resisted being handcuffed while armed with a pair of scissors in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs, on November 9, 2019.

He was acquitted of murder at a five-week trial.

An inquiry into the Warlpiri man’s death heard on Thursday that Mr Rolfe told The Australian journalist Kristin Shorten that if “the family had offered to go inside and bring Walker out themselves, I would have given them my handcuffs”.

“What you’re trying to do here is suggest that the family had some responsibility for what happened in (the house),” family lawyer Gerard Mullins put to Mr Rolfe.

“Yes, I agree,” Mr Rolfe said.

“There is a responsibility that is to be beared by not telling us Kumanjayi Walker was inside that house. 

“I accept that is hurtful, but this is about the truth and that is the truth…” 

Mr Rolfe conceded he had never urged someone to take his handcuffs and arrest someone on his behalf, nor was it part of police training or general protocol.

The inquest earlier heard that Ms Shorten had offered to “write an article in (his) defence” because she knew “what (he) did was totally warranted”.

Mr Rolfe said Ms Shorten was a friend because her partner was also a police officer and she had texted him days after the shooting and told him to “ignore the leftist reporting”.

Kumanjayi Walker was shot dead by NT police officer Zachary Rolfe.
 Teenager Kumanjayi Walker was shot dead by NT police officer Zachary Rolfe. Image by HANDOUT/SUPPLIED 

Earlier in the inquest, the former constable told the inquest that Mr Walker placed his hand on his police-issued pistol during the scuffle before he was shot.

Mr Rolfe agreed with Counsel Assisting the Coroner Peggy Dwyer it was a serious escalation of the incident and could have led to Mr Walker taking control of the weapon, but he knocked his hand away.

He also agreed his murder trial was the first time he had provided that version of events but then backtracked and said it was the first time he had been recorded giving the account.

Dr Dwyer quizzed Mr Rolfe about who else he had told about Mr Walker putting his hand on his gun but the former policeman could not recall anyone and said he remembered it “at a later time”.

He agreed with Dr Dwyer he had not recorded it in his police notebook, where he wrote other significant information about the shooting.

The inquest in Alice Springs continues.