by Mary W Maxwell
The cop who entered the Café for the “EA” (emergency action) after 2.13am is called Officer A. Put aside for now the earlier recounting of Team Charlie’s entrance through the firewell on Martin Place. Today’s witness is from Team Alpha, which entered on Philip St. The two teams were meant to enter simultaneously, but Alpha got in a few seconds before.
Once again we have cops who had been on duty for many hours. Counsel Assisting — Mr Jeremy Gormly, SC — asked: “What bus did you catch to work that morning?” The 5.10 am. “What time did you wake up?” Around 4.40am. “Did you feel tired by the time of the event [22 hours thereafter]?” No.
Recall Team Charlie’s man, whom I named Dennis Albrecht? He said he saw Monis on the floor, right after seeing him standing in back of the “large lady” hostage. Monis, he said, was facing away from him. Thus Dennis was facing the Phillip St entrance into which Team Alpha had already marched, with Officer A in the lead (just behind the shield bearer).
Today’s (July 25) witness, Officer A, is on that Alpha team; he fired 17 bullets. Officer B is his senior officer who fired 5 bullets — but does not remember firing any. Recall that Officer B was wounded in the face and leg.
Team Alpha had mostly hung around all day in the vehicle bay (which is to the left of the Café as you look at it from across Philip St).
Interestingly, at the beginning of Officer A’s talk, the coroner, Magistrate Michael Barnes, pointed out that some of this cop’s testimony could be self-incriminating. But the judge promised to issue a certificate that would allow him to speak freely today and not have the evidence used against him at a later prosecution or a lawsuit.
Editorial note: I am going to put Mr Gormly’s questions in double quotes and not use quotes around the replies by Officer A. I have lightly edited both of them, and also shifted the order around to make it more chronological. But I have not changed any facts or tones of voice.
“Your background, please.” I have been in the NSW police force for 14 years, and in a TOU (tactical operations unit) since 2008.
“Were you ‘stood to’ in preparation for the EA?” Yes many times on that day we were stood to, and many times we had a stand down, so I did get some rest.
“Were there any chairs there or did you sit on the ground?” We sat on the ground, but there were some milk crates to sit on.
“Have you ever been in such a lengthy action?” Yes, many times. “Have you ever been in a Counter-terrorism hostage incident before?” No, only domestic ones.
“You got a chance to look through the window, along with the shield bearer. What did you see?” I saw Monis walking around pointing a gun at the head of a hostage.
“Did you see the backpack?” Yes. I had heard that he might have a bomb in a backpack, so I looked at it carefully. I saw leads coming out of the bottom.
“Were you aware during the day that information was coming in from snipers in the Reserve Bank building?” Yes, that information came over the police radio.
“At any time did you learn that a relief team might replace you?” Yes, I heard that police from the Queensland PTG (Police Tactical Group) or the AFP (Australian Federal Police) might come in.
“Was mention made of the ADF (Australian Defence Force)?” No.
Note: according to Wikipedia:
Police Tactical Group (PTG), formerly known as ‘police assault group’, is an Australian police unit part of the Federal government National Anti-Terrorism Plan which, since 1978, has required each state and territory police to maintain a specialised counter-terrorist and hostage rescue unit jointly funded by the federal government and respective state/territory governments.
The Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC) defines a Police Tactical Group (PTG) as a highly trained police unit that tactically manages and resolves high-risk incidents, including terrorist incidents.”
“I understand you wore 25 kilos of kit. Were you kitted up as soon as the siege started in the morning?” Yes.
“The kit includes the following: a Taser, a standard issue Glock pistol worn in a holster, and a personal issue M4 rifle. Is that right?” Yes.
“You carried 3 SF9’s which you call “studdies,” and 3 magazines for your M4.” Yes.
“When did you load your gun?” I did so in the police van on the way to the site.
“I understand that your gun jammed while you loaded it.” Yes, the van hit a speed hump. At that point I had to take a round out of the magazine to un-jam it, and I put that one in my pocket.
“Does that mean 29 bullets were left in the gun?” Probably, but it could be 28. I am not sure if I started with 30 or 29.
“Could you tell from the weight by holding the gun?” No, it’s not possible.
“If I tell you that 17 bullet casings were found on the floor of the café, all of which came from your rifle, does that sound right?” Yes.
“Do you know that Officer B does not recall firing?” Yes.
“Have you discussed it with him?” No, we make a point of not discussing it. “That is because to the rule of not talking about a major incident?” Yes.
“How did you enter the glass doors?” First our Breacher had to knock out the left panel of glass then we went in; he also then breached the right panel.
“Before he breached, could you see Monis through the glass door?” Yes.
“How so in the dark?” By using the light source on my rifle.
“What did you do?” I entered the café leaning my gun on the shoulder of the shield bearer. Then I took too a few steps forward into the café.
“What else did you see beside Monis?” From the moment I saw him I never took my eyes off him.
“Did you see chairs and table between you and Monis?” No. I was fixed on him.
“What about the laser on your rifle?” It works well for up to 25 meters.
“Describe the shooting.” I trained my laser on his chest to shoot at centre body mass. I shot several bullets. Then I put the red laser on his head and shot more.
“Were you aware how many bullets you shot?” No. Monis had his gun pointed at us. I believe he shot me because I know I flinched.
“Did you see him fall?” Yes, at first I thought he was falling to a kneeling position but I checked and saw that he was dead. A large piece of his head was missing.
“Did you worry about your bullet causing the backpack bomb to explode?” When we initiated the EA, I was 100% certain he had a bomb. But I believed the bullets I fired at him would stay within his body.
“Let me take you back to earlier in the day. Did you know that there was a DA (direct action plan) as well as an EA?” Yes.
“Which was created first?” There is always an EA; it comes first.
“Did you know the specifics of the DA?” [I think he said yes but they are not to be publicized; I am not sure, sorry.]
“Would you have preferred to use a DA?” Of course. We always prefer to use a DA.
“Why?” It let’s us go in at a time of our choosing. We may be able to distract him.
“Did you know throughout the day how the negotiations were going?” Yes. I heard they were not going well.
“At 3.30pm three persons escaped, including Paolo Vassallo. He escaped near where you were standing is that true?” Yes.
“What did he say?” He said ‘You gotta go in; he’s going to kill everybody in there.’
“What are the triggers for an EA?” Death or imminent death of a hostage.
“Did you think the triggers were met?” [I think Officer A said yes.]
“Who would make the decision?” It wouldn’t be one of us. It would be at the PFC or the POC.
“Were you provided earlier in the day with the layout of the stronghold?” Yes I was shown it in Officer B’s notebook.
“How many times in the day did Officer B explain the EA?” About four or five times.
“Did you have the opportunity to raise questions?” Yes. I am deemed reasonably senior so I could take it up with the superiors.
“What language do you use when discussing the standard triggers?” We don’t call them standard triggers; that’s just my expression.
“You heard the first shot. Then you heard a second and someone said maybe it’s a door slamming. Then you heard the third and you assumed he was killing hostages, is that correct?” Yes.
“Did you notice when Charlie Team came in?” I knew the plan was for three teams to come in simultaneously but I was concentrating on Monis.
“Can you tell us where you stood while shooting and where Officer B was?” I am happy to tell you where I was but am not sure of anyone else.”
“You gave an account 6 days later.” When I did the walkthrough I was emotional. The most important part of the EA I got correct.
“What was that?” I continued to shoot Monis until I deemed him no longer a threat. When he was falling down his shotgun was pointed at me the whole time. It was black in there but I had him well lit. It lit up his whole body.
“No one said ADF might be involved?” That wasn’t discussed. I believe there was an ADF advisor in the police center. No one told us that the imminent death was a trigger.
Note: Mr Gormley then handed the cross-examination over to Mr De Mars, a lawyer for Tori Johnson’s family. He asked:
“In your walk-through [January, 2015], you said you saw Monis doing this to hostages, plural. Now you say only one.” Yes, I don’t know why I said hostages with an S; I only saw Louisa Hope.
“I hear you lost the use of your radio just before the EA.” Yes it ran out of battery. But I was close enough to Officer B; he told me what was going on.
“Did you hear Officer B calling on his radio trying to get an order for the EA to be committed?” There was a lot of talk among all.
Note: That was the end of the day at Inquest. Officer A was asked to come back the next morning but I was going to Hobart so I did not attend.
Starting August 15, 2016, Andrew Scipione (NSW Police Commissioner since 2007) will be in the witness box, and possibly his counter-terrorism expert Cath Burns will also be a witness.
— Mary W Maxwell can be reached at mary@maryWmaxwell.com