Inquest told NSW police pursuit of stolen 4WD then five-minute shootout ended in death

| 29.11,22. 12:10 AM |

Inquest told NSW police pursuit of stolen 4WD then five-minute shootout ended in death


Three armed tactical police with a dog search a white four wheel drive with their guns drawn.
Joshua Duke was shot dead after being pursued by dozens of police.(ABC News)

An inquest has heard a five-minute shootout with police ended with the death of a man after a pursuit on the New South Wales Central Coast two years ago.

Deputy state coroner Derek Lee has been tasked with determining if lethal force was appropriate after three officers shot at 38-year-old Joshua Duke at Hamlyn Terrace, Warnervale, on October 15, 2020.

In his opening address, counsel assisting Rob Ranken said at the time he was killed Mr Duke was being investigated for his alleged involvement in an organised motor vehicle rebirthing syndicate.

The syndicate had been blamed for the theft of five stolen LandCruisers in the months prior to his death.

Shots fired and police cars rammed

It was in a stolen LandCruiser that Mr Duke had been allegedly driving when he was pursued by dozens of police through several suburbs prior to his shooting death.

Mug shot of Joshua Duke- a white male, with sweaty hair, receding hairline, tradie shirt, bushy beard.
Joshua Duke was 38 when he died.(Supplied: NSW Police)

Mr Ranken said Mr Duke also had a passenger, and witnesses described seeing the barrels of a shotgun as the vehicle roared past.

The inquest heard of police vehicles being rammed twice.

"The LandCruiser attempted to ram and incapacitate the [first] police vehicle and police were able to avoid a major collision," Mr Ranken said.

"But part of the front windscreen shattered and a policeman was struck by glass in the face."

He said another ram was attempted before the LandCruiser took off, as an officer yelled, "f***ing stop the car, stop the car while pointing a gun at the occupants".

Two police officers with guns crouch next to an old car body on a rural property wearing helmets.
Armed tactical police officers crouch behind a car at a rural property in Warnervale in 2020.(ABC News)

Gunman cautioned before shootout

The inquest heard the vehicle continued at high speed, before turning into a private property.

"The LandCruiser braked suddenly, turned into a Hamlyn Terrace property and busted through the front gate, as a [policeman] saw what he believed to be the barrel of a firearm held by the driver," Mr Ranken said.

The shocked property owners saw the 4WD headed towards their home.

"On the morning, they were on their front verandah as the LandCruiser drove at high speed," Mr Ranken said.

"They saw a male with a beard, dark skin, and cap and thought they also saw a passenger, as they drove towards the back of the property.

"PolAir was circling low and they called triple-0."

Three police cars and police tape block off a road while onlookers stand in the foreground looking.
Police blocked off roads to the property in Warnervale.(ABC News: Michael Cain)

Face-to-face with a gunman

The inquest heard while on the Hamlyn Terrace property,  the deadly confrontation started when Mr Duke was 40 metres from police officers who were taking cover behind a shed.

"He was casually walking, and then he was 20 metres away, carrying a long-arm firearm by his side," Mr Ranken said.

Mr Ranken said officers cautioned him but he kept walking.

"He continued to walk and started swinging the barrel and they yelled, 'Put the f***ing gun down, put it down'," he said.

Mr Ranken said one of the officers would tell the inquest that Mr Duke "came toward him while squaring up the firearm, repositioning it as to how he was going to shoot … I had the quickest thought I ever had, which was to shoot".

Three men and a woman wearing bullet proof vests stand near a car. A blue blanket covers a body.
A blanket was used to cover the body of Joshua Duke after he was shot dead by police.(ABC News)

Over a five-minute period, a total of 14 shots were fired by the three officers.

"A post-mortem examination showed there was one [gunshot wound] to the top of the head, one to the right chest, one to the right leg, and a fourth to the left thumb," Mr Ranken said.

He said it was the shot to the head that proved deadly.

?Was lethal force required

The inquest is not about apportioning blame and has been considered a fact-finding mission.

Mr Ranken said a number of things would be looked at.

"It will scrutinise the use of lethal force by the police and investigate whether the use of lethal force was the only alternative," he said.

"Were interactions immediately prior to the shooting appropriate? Were the officers' decisions to fire at Mr Duke appropriate and consistent with New South Wales police protocols?"

In addition, he said it would be up to the deputy state coroner to assess if police officers gave thought about the risk posed to civilians.




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