Neil Richard Banjo died in Townsville hospital almost a year after the incident outside his home. Picture: Evan Morgan
Neil Richard Banjo died in Townsville hospital almost a year after the incident outside his home. Picture: Evan Morgan

Man died after being pushed by cop, inquest hears

A CORONER has found that a Normanton man likely died as a result of hitting his head on the ground after being pushed by a police officer.

He has also recommended the circumstances surrounding Neil Richard Banjo's death be included in future police officer training.

Court documents from an October 2 inquest into the death of Mr Banjo reveal the 53-year-old suffered a serious head injury following a confrontation with two Queensland Police Service officers outside his home on February 25, 2016.

Mr Banjo, who had been in hospital since that night, died January 18, 2017 but had never recovered after being pushed by an officer in an police-approved use of force called the "crouch dive technique."

In his findings, State Coroner Terry Ryan noted that although the most likely cause of Mr Banjo's death was traumatic brain injury, it was also possible coronary artery atheroma was a contributing factor.

 

Neil Richard Banjo likely died as a result of hitting his head on the ground after being pushed by a police officer, a coroner has found.
Neil Richard Banjo likely died as a result of hitting his head on the ground after being pushed by a police officer, a coroner has found.

 

Constables Timothy Salau and Ross Lynch were called to Mr Banjo's Normanton home about 7.30pm February 25, 2016 where a birthday party for his daughter, Heather Beasely was being held.

Cheryl Logan, Mr Banjo's partner, had called for assistance with their daughter, Zoelene Beasley, who had been arguing with her father, according to the inquest report.

When the police arrived, the court documents state Zoelene Beasley was intoxicated, and refused to answer questions.

She eventually smashed a glass bottle on the road near the officers but said it was not aimed at either of them.

"As QPS officers attempted to arrest Zoelene for public nuisance, Mr Banjo and others from the party intervened and expressed concern that she was being "rough handled" as police were taking her to the police vehicle," the inquest documents state.

After ignoring repeated requests by the officers to step back, Constable Salau said he eventually felt threatened as they placed Zoelene in the car.

"Mr Banjo was presenting in a manner Constable Salau perceived as aggressive in terms of his physical and verbal behaviour. This caused Constable Salau to be concerned for his personal safety," Mr Ryan wrote in his findings.

"In order to gain time and space, Constable Salau performed a "crouch dive" in which he forcefully pushed both of his hands forward onto Mr Banjo's chest.

"As a result of being pushed, Mr Banjo to the ground and struck his head, sustaining a traumatic brain injury."

Mr Banjo was taken to Normanton Hospital before being flown to Townsville Hospital by the Royal Flying Doctor Service in the early hours of February 26, 2016.

He remained in the Townsville Hospital until May 2016, when he was transferred to the Cairns Hospital, but he "remained bed bound and unable to communicate".

Mr Banjo was moved to a nursing home on January 17, 2017 but died the next day.

Neil Richard Banjo died in Townsville hospital almost a year after the incident outside his home. Picture: Evan Morgan
Neil Richard Banjo died in Townsville hospital almost a year after the incident outside his home. Picture: Evan Morgan

The state coroner also found that the use of force applied by Constable Salau in the situation was appropriate and justified, after taking into account Mr Banjo's level of intoxication and that the crouch dive technique lay at the "lower end of the range of use of force options available to police".

Mr Ryan recommended that QPS include the circumstances surrounding Mr Banjo's death in its use of force and cultural competency training materials.

He also recommended officers have specific awareness of the risk of significant head injury to people who are pushed and fall as a result of the crouch dive manoeuvre, as well as encouraging greater use of police discretion and alternatives to arrest in responding to public nuisance and other low level offences.

"While I did not hear any evidence on the diversionary options available to police in Normanton, it is possible that a Community Justice Group member, or an Indigenous police liaison officer, might have assisted the officers in the resolution of the original complaint, which was essentially a dispute between family members," Mr Ryan wrote.