A POLICEMAN trained to deal with mental health emergencies arrived seconds too late to help prevent a knife-wielding woman being shot dead by another officer near a Sydney fast-food restaurant.
Senior Constable Paul Falzon told the Glebe Coroners Court on Thursday when he heard police radio saying the woman was talking to herself and had a large knife pointed at her stomach, mental health or drug issues came to mind. “I believed she may have been drug-affected or there may have been other issues,” he said.
“We tried to attend as quickly as we could.” The inquest is investigating the death of Courtney Topic, who was shot dead by an officer near the West Hoxton Hungry Jack’s car park in February 2015. The court has heard Ms Topic had probably been experiencing an untreated psychosis and likely suffered undiagnosed schizophrenia.
Police radio calls on the day of her death reveal responding officers were told the “distressed” woman was “talking to herself” and pointing a large carving knife at her stomach.
They also heard the young woman in a striped top and jeans was “waving” the knife about and “hitting herself in the head”.
There was concern Ms Topic was about to hurt herself.
Despite this, senior police hadn’t contacted Sen Const Falzon to respond as an accredited member of the mental health intervention team.
He told the inquest since receiving the mental health training in 2014, he had never been contacted by senior officers to use it.
The four-day course included de-escalation skills when approaching someone with a dangerous weapon.
Sitting beside him, his partner Constable Sanja Djuric, who had less than two- years’ experience, was unaware he had received the mental health training. As they rushed to find Ms Topic they didn’t discuss the possibility that she could have been suffering from mental illness.
But as the pair arrived at Hungry Jack’s, Ms Topic was already surrounded by three police officers and a gun was raised.
The senior constable with the training to help the 22-year-old watched as she was pepper-sprayed, but it appears to only hit her hair.
She is then shot in the chest after she moved towards one of the officers with the knife as he was attempting to back away.
The inquest has heard she was shot 41 seconds after police first arrived at the scene.
Sen Const Falzon held the young woman’s head as she lay dying while fellow officers attempted first aid.
Ms Topic’s family thanked the policeman for helping in her final moments. The inquest continues.