Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Ashley Dean FILDES

Inquest into the Death of Ashley FILDES

Delivered on : 20 October 2023

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order :  There be no reporting or publication of any document or evidence that would reveal the detail of police policies and standard operating procedures, tactics, or training methods in relation to the use of force, including, but not limited to, firearms and Taser Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW).

Summary : On 1 May 2020 Ashley Fildes (Ashley) was fatally shot by police at the South Hedland Shopping Complex after he stabbed a number of people with a knife and then threatened the police officers with the knife. The cause of death was gunshot injuries.

Ashley had a history of schizophrenia and had not been taking his anti-psychotic medication in the months leading up to his death. He had ceased engaging with his community mental health service and had been discharged from the service as he was a voluntary patient and was assessed as at low risk at the time. The evidence indicated Ashley’s mental state had been deteriorating in the days leading up to his death. He had attended work on the morning of his death, but had to be taken back to his hotel accommodation as he was behaving erratically and his work colleagues were concerned for his mental state. Plans had been made to fly him back to Perth, but before that could occur, he suddenly armed himself with a knife and began to threaten various members of the public, a number of whom he stabbed with the knife. Ashley had no prior history of violence, so his behaviour was out of character and unexpected.

In a very short period of time, Ashley made his way to the South Hedland shopping complex. Two police officers were at the centre for an unrelated matter. One of them heard over the radio that there had been a stabbing incident nearby and then Ashley appeared in the centre armed with the knife. The two police officers called on him to stop and drop the knife but he did not respond and continued through the centre, where many members of the public were present. The police officers attempted to stop Ashley by deploying a taser three times, but their attempts were unsuccessful. Ashley then turned on the police officers and knocked one of them to the ground in an apparent attempt to stab her. He then turned on the other police officer, who drew his firearm and called on Ashley to stop. Ashley did not respond to the command and approached the police officer while holding the knife in a threatening manner. In response, the police officer shot Ashley three times. The first two shots had no obvious effect on Ashley. There was an immediate effect after the third shot, and Ashley fell to the ground, still holding the knife. After disarming Ashley, the police officers and members of the public commenced first aid, but Ashley was fatally wounded and died at the scene.

Police officers commenced a homicide investigation and an internal affairs investigation. The homicide investigation concluded that the actions of the police officers were justified and the shooting was excused by law by reason of self-defence. No charges were laid in relation to Ashley’s death. The Internal Affairs Unit investigation found neither police officer breached any policy or code of conduct.

The inquest hearing also explored Ashley’s psychiatric care leading up to his death. Expert evidence was heard to the effect that Ashley’s management was appropriate and the quality of mental health care he received was good, given the resources available in Western Australia for these services. It was suggested that Ashley’s care, and compliance with his depot medication, could have been improved with the addition of peer support services, but they were not available at the time. The East Metropolitan Health Service is currently trialling the addition of a peer support program in some of its community mental health services, with the hope that in the future peer support workers can become embedded in the organisation.

The Deputy State Coroner found that the death occurred by way of lawful homicide. The Deputy State Coroner did not make any recommendations.

Catch Words : Mandatory Inquest : Police shooting : Psychiatric Care : Peer Support Worker

Last updated: 8-Nov-2023

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