Borroloola calls for justice over shooting

[by Nicholas Fitzpatrick]

Shay Wright, a passenger in the vehicle fired, described the clothes the men were wearing and the model of their ute that led to their arrest. Image: supplied Shay Wright 

Over fifty residents of Borroloola in the Roper Gulf Region gathered outside the community police station on Saturday to call for justice after a local family was chased, shot at and forced off the road by an unknown pursuing vehicle in a terrifying incident.

Young mother, Lisa Watson, witnessed the incident from the passenger seat of the vehicle, with her family including her 3 year old son and 5 year old nephew.

“On Thursday evening on the way back from fishing we pulled into a roadhouse 100km out of Borroloola. Once we left, we were followed in a vehicle high beaming us. We thought they wanted to get in front so my partner slowed down to let them pass. Once they got in front they slammed the breaks and three white men jumped out and tried to run up to our car to get us all out. I yelled at my partner to DRIVE! Their vehicle chased us for 20 minutes down the highway, firing shots and aiming it at the car.

“We saw them hanging the gun out the window on the passenger side. My partner slammed the breaks and turned into the McArthur River Mine Site, where we approached their Security Guards for assistance and waited for police to arrive.”

Witnesses from the incident recognised the vehicle and perpetrators present at the police station on Saturday morning, initiating a peaceful community protest outside the station to call for answers and justice.

“When one of the policemen came to the fence he was laughing at us and smirking. My three year old son could have been shot. We could have had a car accident and the Borroloola police are taking it as a joke,” said Lisa Watson.

“We are very disgusted with how this has been handled. We want answers, that’s why we are here. This is our town. We have been terrorised on our own land,” said Maria Pyro, mother of the victims involved in the shooting.

After 12 hours of peaceful protesting, two men have been charged with one count of aggravated assault, one count of driving in a dangerous manner and two counts of firearm offences on Saturday night. The third man has yet to be charged. All three men were evacuated from Borroloola to Katherine, and immediately released on bail.

“It’s a long time since something like this has happened in Borroloola. We have a history of policemen chasing and shooting our people during the massacre times. There’s trauma already inside us from that kind of stuff, and now it just got relit” said Nicholas Fitzpatrick, brother of the victims of the shooting.

“They will not be kept in custody until their court date, which I think is unacceptable because of how serious the crime is. We feel as if they should have more serious charges for what they did,” said Lisa Watson.

“I know for a fact that this shooting would not be handled like this if this happened to white people and white children. Black lives matter. Me and my family should not have been hiding for our lives in the bushes like cattle. If I was the one holding the gun, I would have been shot dead on the spot - ask questions later,” Lisa added.

“The director of public prosecutions is who will handle what charges they receive, that is who we need to put pressure on to make sure they get what they deserve”.

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