‘Life or death’ moment cops kill crazed knifeman
Two police officers were in a "life or death situation" when they opened fire and killed a drunken, knife-wielding Australia Post worker, an inquest has been told.
Eyewitness Lynette Sartori told the Newcastle Local Court yesterday plain-clothes officers Jamie Taylor and Darren Hamilton had no choice but to shoot an agitated Stephen Hodge, 51.
Ms Sartori said Constable Taylor was cornered in the Warners Bay post office car park by Mr Hodge who was advancing on him with the large knife and ignoring pleas to drop the weapon.
The post office manager, Brendan Hogan, had earlier told the court he had been dealing with Mr Hodge's erratic behaviour for years until the mentally ill postal services worker snapped and chased him with a large knife before being shot four times by police.
Constable Hamilton told the court how both officers drew their guns as soon as they saw Mr Hodge armed with the knife in the car park on September 9, 2015. He said neither officer was carrying a taser because they had been in plain clothes conducting mainly surveillance operations for the Special Operations Group at the time and tasers were too bulky to be concealed, whereas their revolvers could be hidden in holsters under their shirts.
Constable Hamilton claimed the officers drew their guns because Mr Hodge was within six metres and presented a real danger to their safety and others nearby. The offices opened fire when Mr Hodge refused to drop the knife and began advancing towards them.
When Mr Hodge's mother, Janet, arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting she asked one police officer, "Why did youse do this? He wouldn't hurt anyone. Why?" Mr Hogan had earlier told the court that on the day of the shooting he argued with Mr Hodge who had been drinking and returned late to work after his lunch break.
He said Mr Hodge complained to him in the back office how he did not respect him and that he was suffering from depression.
Mr Hogan said Mr Hodge later left the post office and he assumed he had gone home sick.
But a short time later Mr Hodge returned holding a large knife by his side in his right hand and blood was smeared on his left hand.
Without saying a word, Mr Hodge then raised the knife shoulder high and began walking towards the terrified post office manager.
"I was just scared for my life at that point," Mr Hogan told the court. Mr Hogan backed his way into the main post office area, always making sure he had Mr Hodge in his sight as he pleaded with him to drop the knife. At one stage Mr Hogan called out to the customers in the post office, "He's got a knife, please get away." Mr Hogan then yelled out to his staff to press the duress alarm as Mr Hodge chased him outside.
The post office manager was able to get to a back door in the loading bay and lock it behind him as Mr Hodge twice tried to force it open. The inquest before acting State coroner Teresa O'Sullivan resumes on Wednesday.