‘It’s a good gig, just do cowboy stuff with no rules’: deleted courtship lifted on Rolfe’s text messages

Several months before the fatal shooting of Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu, officer Zachary Rolfe described his job as doing “cowboy stuff without rules” in a text message to a fellow army officer, who has now obtained a publication ban from the NT Supreme Court. on her lifting, the media reported.

Constable Rolfe was found not guilty of murder and two alternative charges by a Supreme Court jury on March 11 for the shooting death, which resulted from his deployment to the remote Indigenous community as one of four officers sent to the Northern Territories Police Immediate Response Team. .

During an arrest attempt, 19-year-old Aboriginal Mr Walker was shot three times after stabbing Constable Rolfe in the shoulder with scissors on November 9, 2019. They are the second two shots fired by Constable Rolfe which were the subject of the murder charge.

On Friday, Judge John Burns granted a request from media organizations to lift deletion orders, including on text messages, and information about an unrelated court case in which a judge found that Constable Rolfe assaulted an Aboriginal man and lied about it in his testimony.

The order had blocked the media from reporting on Constable Rolfe’s text messages, which were also not allowed to be presented as evidence during the five-week trial.

The ABC reported that the court has yet to provide the text messages to the media, but has verified two text messages, which court documents show were sent in February and July 2019.

“Alice Springs sucks ha ha. The good thing is it’s like the Wild West and all the rules of the job are really screwed up…but it’s a shithole. Good to start here because [sic] volume of work, but it will be good to leave,” he reportedly said in one.

And in another: “We have this little team in Alice, IRT, immediate response team. We are not full time, just be called by Gd [general duties] for high-risk jobs, it’s a great job, just do cowboy stuff with no rules.

The messages had been allowed to form part of Crown evidence, but Trial Judge Burns ruled them inadmissible in December after the defense appealed their inclusion.

The judge agreed to lift all suppression orders after concluding that public scrutiny of the court’s decisions outweighed any potential reputational risk to Officer Rolfe.

In his reasons for not allowing them as evidence, Judge Burns said the messages were capable of inferring Agent Rolfe’s attitude when sent, but required a different “process of reasoning” to deduce that he still had the same attitude at the time of the shooting.

“The evidence reveals an expression of an attitude on the part of the accused that the ‘rules’ do not apply to him in his activities as a police officer,” Judge Burns said.

On Friday, Constable Rolfe’s attorney, David Edwardson, opposed lifting the publication ban, saying it could be defamatory.

“It is the imputation that attaches to the [communication] himself, and how the prosecution argued, or sought to argue, unsuccessfully, that there was a sinister overtone to what was said,” Mr Edwardson told the court.

“These text messages were addressed to members of the military and they were written in the context of the military. Nothing to do with this case. Nothing to do with the context in which he was charged.

Crown prosecutor Philip Strickland told the court that the argument that they were defamatory was without merit.

“They are simply communications by [Constable Rolfe] in his own words, which relate to his attitude or thoughts about the IRT or the police at any given time.

Acting Territory Coroner Judge Elisabeth Armitage will preside over a coroner’s inquest into Mr Walker’s death in September.

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