Dwayne Johnstone, who was shot dead by prison officers at Lismore Base Hospital in March 2019. Picture: Tim Hunter.
Dwayne Johnstone, who was shot dead by prison officers at Lismore Base Hospital in March 2019. Picture: Tim Hunter.

Coroner to decide if fatal shooting of inmate was criminal

A CORONER investigating the death of an Aboriginal man in custody in Lismore will deliberate whether criminal charges ought to be laid against the officer who fired the fatal shot.

Numulgi man Dwayne Johnstone, 43, was under Corrective Services custody on March 15 last year when he was transported to Lismore Base Hospital for treatment.

He had just been refused bail at Lismore Local Court that same day when he suffered what is believed to be an epileptic seizure while in the courthouse cells.

After his treatment, Mr Johnstone was being escorted by two correctional service officers back to the transport van when he assaulted one the officers and attempted to run away.

Mr Johnstone, who was hand and ankle cuffs at the time, managed to escape and run across Uralba St, Lismore as one officer followed in pursuit.

 

Police Rescue and SES crews combed the area outside the Lismore Base Hospital for evidence following a fatal shooting in March 2019.
Police Rescue and SES crews combed the area outside the Lismore Base Hospital for evidence following a fatal shooting in March 2019.

 

The second officer, who was the only one of the pair armed, fired two warning shots before firing the third fatal shot at Mr Johnstone, hitting him in his back.

He was treated immediately by hospital staff but died two hours later from injuries sustained by the bullet.

The inquest heard on Wednesday that if the coroner, Magistrate Therese O'Sullivan, at any point during evidence felt the threshold of what could be deemed as an indictable offence has been crossed, the inquest must be suspended.

 

Police are outside the Lismore Base Hospital following a fatal shooting in March 2019.
Police are outside the Lismore Base Hospital following a fatal shooting in March 2019.

 

She has adjourned to 10am on Thursday, October 29, where she is expected to make her decision as whether there is enough evidence an indictable offence occurred and if a jury would be able to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.

If Magistrate O'Sullivan does determine the evidence shows an indictable offence has occurred, she will suspend proceeding and refer her findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the inquest heard.

It is then up to the DPP whether they proceed with laying any criminal charges.