Police to be charged over Taser death

RACHEL OLDING
Last updated 15:03 13/12/2013
Roberto Laudisio Curti
POLICE CHARGED: CCTV footage of Roberto Laudisio Curti before he was fatally Tasered by police officers in Sydney in March 2012.

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Four Australian police officers who were involved in the violent and lethal arrest of a young Brazilian student will have criminal assault charges laid against them.

Roberto Laudisio Curti, 21, died on Pitt Street in the Sydney CBD in the early hours of March 18, 2012, following a chase by, and violent struggle with, 11 police officers, many of whom were acting on incorrect reports of an armed robbery.

He had earlier jumped the counter of a convenience store in an LSD-induced psychotic state and left with two packets of biscuits.

The talented football player had been out in Kings Cross celebrating a win with friends but ended up roaming the city's streets on his own in a paranoid, sweaty state.

Two police officers spotted him wandering down Pitt Street and tried to speak to him before he ran off. More officers joined the chase and eventual restraint.

Tasers were fired up to 14 times - nine of which hit Curti - and he was restrained by seven officers using three cans of OC spray, two sets of handcuffs, a police baton and "half a tonne" of officers, an inquest heard last October.

State Coroner Mary Jerram stopped short of recommending criminal charges and instead referred the matter to the Police Integrity Commission when she handed down scathing findings.

The Police Integrity Commission referred an extensive brief of evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions in May, recommending that some of the officers be charged.

On Friday, the DPP advised the PIC that there was sufficient evidence to charge four of the officers.

It is expected that Senior Constable Scott Edmondson and Constable Daniel Barling will be charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and Senior Constable Eric Lim and Senior Constable Damien Ralph will be charged with the lesser offence of common assault.

Senior Constable Edmondson Tasered Curti twice in the back as he lay on the ground resisting arrest and was one of five officers picked out by Jerram for their "reckless, careless, dangerous and excessively forceful" actions.

Constable Barling was also chastised for Tasering Curti five times in "drive stun" mode whereby the Taser is pressed against the skin rather than shot from afar.

Senior Constable Ralph used three partial cans of capsicum spray on Curti, possibly as close as 10 centimetres from his face, while several police officers were on top of him.

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Senior Constable Lim told the inquest that he tried to tackle Curti twice but, considering he weighed just 55 kilograms, fired his Taser once to bring Curti to the ground and another time when Curti was on the ground in handcuffs.

Jerram found that the police officers acted "like schoolboys in Lord of the Flies" and their "thuggish" actions contributed to the death of Curti.

It is expected that the DPP will lay the charges in the next week and the four officers will appear before a court in the new year.

NSW Police said "appropriate interim management action remains in place for the officers concerned".

"As there are legal proceedings under way, it's inappropriate to comment further," a spokesman said.

The four officers recommended for charges have remained on duty since the incident but had their Tasers taken from them following the PIC referral.

They were still authorised to carry guns but had to attend and successfully complete new Taser training to be "re-accredited".

- Sydney Morning Herald

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