Probationary Constable Daniel Barling outside the Coroner’s Court with a senior officer. Photos by Duane Langley
The State Coroner has recommended disciplinary charges be considered against five police officers over the death of Brazilian student Roberto Laudisio Curti. She also ordered that most of the officers involved in the chase and melee that ended in Curti’s death be referred to the Police Integrity Commission.
Mary Jerram delivered her findings and five recommendations at Glebe Coroners’ Court today. She found some officers used excessive force and were “in some instances even thuggish”.
Ms Jerram criticised several of the officers, including Probationary Constable Daniel Barling, who tasered Mr Curti five times after he was handcuffed.
The coroner said some police officers responding to the violent struggle had no idea what crime Mr Curti had committed and that they acted like the “schoolboys in Lord of the Flies“.
“The actions of a number of the officers were … reckless, careless, dangerous and excessively forceful,” she said.
“It’s impossible to believe that he would have died but for the actions of police.”
Mr Curti jumped a convenience store counter and stole two packets of biscuits after consuming LSD while celebrating St Patrick’s Day.
Police wrongly categorised his action, in radio reports, as an armed robbery.
Mr Curti was still in a paranoid state induced by the LSD when police chased him down Pitt Street.
Police tasered him several times and sprayed him with almost three cans of capsicum spray. Seven police officers then handcuffed and restrained him on the ground.
Ms Jerram believed that of the “frenzy of officers” taking Mr Curti down, some were inexperienced and “out of control”.
“Certainly, he had taken an illicit drug, as has become all too common in today’s society. But he was guilty of no serious offence. He was proffering no threat to anyone.”
Several of the police officers claimed Mr Curti had “superhuman strength” and that they did not hear him cry for help and call out “What did I do?” as they restrained him.
Inspector Gregory Cooper claimed he told the junior police officers to stop using their tasers but the officers had failed to hear him.
Ms Jerram said his evidence was so conflicting and self-serving it “hardly deserves narration”.
The coronial finding recommended an immediate review of the way capsicum spray, tasers, handcuffs and restraints were used as compliance tools.
Ms Jerram concluded that there was no specific cause of death, but she ruled that Mr Curti died while police officers restrained him. – Charlie-rose Mielczarek