Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Desmond Edward JACK

Inquest into the Death of Desmond Edward JACK

Delivered on : 9 June 2022

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Urquhart

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : Yes

There be no reporting or publication of any document or evidence that would reveal police policies and standard operating procedures, tactics, or training methods in relation to the use of force, including, but not limited to, firearms

Summary : Desmond Edward Jack (Mr Jack) died on 28 March 2019 from a gunshot injury. He was 33 years old. Mr Jack had been involved in an incident with police earlier that afternoon when a police officer fired one round from his firearm which struck Mr Jack in the chest. Accordingly, an inquest into Mr Jack’s death is mandatory, pursuant to section 22(1)(b) of the Coroners Act 1996 (WA), in order to investigate whether his death was caused, or contributed to, by any action of a member of the Western Australia Police Force.  

Mr Jack had a history of mental health issues and was receiving ongoing care from his GP and was managed intermittently by the Wheatbelt Mental Health Services (WMHS).  Mr Jack had a history of drug use, predominately methylamphetamine and cannabis. At the time of his death, Mr Jack was living in a granny flat on his parent’s property in Mooliabeenee.

On 27 March 2019, Mr Jack’s sister contacted the WMHS seeking assistance for her brother’s deteriorating mental state.  She was given available options to get the required support for him and she was further advised that the family should contact WMHS if they needed further assistance. On the morning of 28 March 2019, Mr Jack’s mother telephoned WMHS and again raised concerns about Mr Jack’s mental health which had escalated and asked if he could get a referral that would allow him to be directly admitted to hospital. After discussing the options available to her, Mr Jack’s mother stated that Mr Jack was asleep, and she would wait until he woke up to see if he would agree to be admitted to hospital voluntarily.

Mr Jack entered his parent’s house at lunchtime and his mother told him of her plans to make an appointment for him to see his GP and for him to be admitted to hospital, but Mr Jack did not agree to the plan. He ate his lunch and returned to his granny flat and locked himself in. Mr Jack’s mother rang her other two sons and asked them to come over and assist with getting their brother into hospital.  One of the brother’s attended at his parent’s property with his licensed rifle, as he was concerned Mr Jack might attempt to hurt someone. With the assistance of her two eldest sons, Mr Jack’s mother made another attempt to persuade Mr Jack to voluntarily admit himself to hospital; however, he refused to do so and after briefly coming out the granny flat, he went back inside and relocked the door. A decision was then made by Mr Jack’s family to contact the police.

Two police officers from the Gingin Police Station attended the property. The attending officers were advised of Mr Jack’s mental health and substance abuse issues, that he had threatened to kill himself and others, and he could be in possession of knives. The police officers made attempts to speak with Mr Jack who was still in the granny flat, but there was no response. When the two police officers and Mr Jack’s brothers were at the rear of the granny flat, Mr Jack’s mother was standing where she could see the granny flat’s front door. She saw Mr Jack leave the granny flat and run towards a large water tank located on the opposite side of the granny flat. She also saw that he was holding a knife.

One of the police officers ran after Mr Jack, shouting for him to stop. Mr Jack did stop running, and turned and faced the police officer. Mr Jack did not say anything and raised the knife in his right hand to about the same height as his head and began making a stabbing motion with the knife by moving it up and down from above his shoulder to a point in line with his chest. This motion was done quickly and repeatedly. As Mr Jack began to move towards him, the police officer drew his firearm as he was concerned that Mr Jack might try and stab him.  Although the police officer pointed his firearm and yelled for Mr Jack to stop, he continued to move towards the police officer, still making stabbing-type motions with the knife. The police officer took a step backwards and continued to yell at Mr Jack to stop. Mr Jack did not respond and kept moving towards the police officer and making the stabbing motions with the knife. When Mr Jack was about two or three metres away from the police officer, the officer discharged his firearm once. Mr Jack fell to the ground and released the knife from his hand.

The police officer immediately applied pressure to the gunshot wound with a field dressing he was carrying.  Mr Jack began to resist the first aid the police officers were providing and he was put into a recovery position, with handcuffs placed on him, until he stopped resisting.  An ambulance was called and attended.  Ambulance officers initially examined Mr Jack and noted he was unresponsive and not breathing and was in an extremely critical condition. Despite the extensive efforts to revive Mr Jack, he was later declared life extinct at 4.45 pm at St John of God Hospital, Midland.

The Coroner was satisfied that Mr Jack was experiencing a major psychotic episode when he confronted the police officer, armed with the knife. The Coroner found  there were sufficient grounds for the police officer to reasonably suspect that there was a risk of grievous bodily harm or death to him once Mr Jack stopped and turned around to face him, and then began making stabbing motions with the knife he was holding as he moved towards the police officer. The Coroner found the police officer was justified in discharging his firearm.

Catch Words : Mental Health : Drug Abuse : Using Lethal Force : Discharge of a Firearm by Police : Body-worn cameras : Mental Health Training for operational police officers : Homicide by way of Self-defence

Last updated: 18-Jul-2022

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