Coroner clears police in shooting death of Downs man
A CORONER has found that police who shot and killed an armed man during a "high risk" situation on a property outside Warwick had acted entirely appropriately.
The three-day inquest in Toowoomba had looked into the circumstances surrounding the death of Russell Winks on his Charleys Gully Rd property at Freestone north-east of Warwick on the afternoon of November 17, 2016.
The inquest heard Mr Winks was a funny and caring man, a committed husband and family man but at the time had been suffering depression.
"Clearly, he was the foundation on which the family was based," Coroner Terry Ryan said.
"His actions on 17 November 2016 were out of character."
After her husband told her he was going to kill himself and left the house with a .22 rifle, Mrs Joy Winks heard five shots come from a gully and called an ambulance.
First police to respond to the incident, Senior Constable Jeremy Lambert and Constable Laura Zilmann had gone to the property expecting to find Mr Winks deceased.
However, they arrived to find Mr Winks walking toward them armed with a rifle and shouting at them to shoot him.
Mr Winks then walked back into bushland and other police crews were called.
Snr Const. Lambert spoke with Senior Constable Cook who was at Warwick Police Station and suggested he bring a police service rifle with him.
Though having to obtain permission for the deployment of a service rifle, Snr Const. Cook retrieved the rifle from the police cabinet and drove the 20 minutes to the property, only obtaining permission from Inspector Brian Cannon for the rifle's deployment en route.
Counsel for the family Matt Jackson submitted that by obtaining the rifle before receiving authority, Snr Const. Cook had breached Queensland Police Service procedure.
However, Coroner Ryan found that Snr Const. Cook had acted appropriately in the circumstances.
At the scene, police officers had decided to make a tactical withdrawal to give Mr Winks time to calm down.
However, before that could be effected, Mr Winks emerged from bushland carrying the rifle and approached police, again calling on them to shoot him - not with a pistol but with a service rifle.
The inquest heard that by Snr Const Cook's bodycam camera recording, he had asked Mr Winks 25 times in four minutes to drop the rifle.
He had also reassured the distressed 65-year-old that he would be taken to hospital and not into custody, and that he would not be handcuffed as he had feared, the inquest heard.
When Mr Winks lifted the rifle and aimed at Snr Const. Cook who was crouched beside a police car, Snr Const. Cook fired one shot which hit Mr Winks in the chest. He fell to the ground.
Coroner Ryan found Mr Winks had died of a gunshot wound to the chest at about 5.50pm, November 17, 2016, and that the lethal force used by police was appropriate in the circumstances.
He also found police had no other option to resolve the situation and that the Ethical Standards Command investigation into the incident had been thorough and appropriate.
Mr Ryan said there appeared to be some ambiguity in the definition of the word "deployment" when it came to requests for the use of police service rifles and recommended the police service review the term to clarify it.