The sister of an unarmed man shot dead by police who thought he was armed with a knife says she should have been provided with a translator when making a report that sent officers to the family home.
Tong Ly, 38, was killed when officers went to the house in Beechboro on November 22, 2018, in response to a report of a family violence incident.
His sister and father had gone to Midland police station earlier in the day to report an incident in which her brother pushed her father and mother as they argued over the television remote.
Through a translator, his sister Thi Bich Phuong Tong told Perth Coroner’s Court her father had come to her home after fighting with Mr Tong, and asked for her to take him to the police station and help translate.
She said her father told her he wanted to go to the police station to get help for her brother, who had a history of mental illness and substance abuse, to get him into rehab.
Mr Tong had been living at his parents’ house despite his father obtaining a family violence restraining order against him following a fight with his brother.
When Ms Tong and her father arrived at Midland police station, she said she told an officer there had been an argument and she needed help.
She was taken to an interview room where she spoke with Senior Constable Simon Briggs.
Sister disputes report of knife
Counsel assisting the coroner, Sarah Tyler, asked Ms Tong about police notes stating she had told officers her brother had assaulted her father with a knife.
She said that was not correct.
“My Dad mentioned to me that there was a pushing, altercation between me and my Dad,” she said.
“My Dad was really scared and saw Ly went into the kitchen, and my dad thought Ly would go into the kitchen and grab a knife.
“I didn’t say he carried a knife … he (her father) didn’t see a knife.”
She said she answered the officer’s questions to the best of her abilities but admitted she did not fully understand everything that was said.
Officers were dispatched to the home, where they found Ms Tong’s mother and two young children. There were also two older boys — Mr Tong’s nephews — living at the home.
According to an internal police investigation conducted at the time, Mr Tong emerged from a bedroom and was shot three times “within seconds” by one of the officers, and died almost immediately.
That investigation found he was not holding a weapon when he was shot.
Family ‘lost faith’ in police
Ms Tong said she thought she and her father should have been given a translator and that the family had lost faith in the WA Police force.
“We completely lost faith in what the police can do for us and the community,” she said.
“We were completely overwhelmed by what happened to us.”
Senior Constable Briggs told the court he thought he and Ms Tong were able to understand each other, although he was told her father had very little English.
He said he initially had a short conversation with Ms Tong, in which he recalled she told him her father had been cut with a knife.
He was also shown a cut on the man’s leg, which he said appeared old and scabbed over.
Senior Constable Briggs said he was “100 per cent” confident that Ms Tong told him there was a man at the family home who was making threats to kill.
He said Ms Tong also gave him a copy of the restraining order against her brother.
Interpreter deemed not necessary
When asked whether he considered bringing in an interpreter, Senior Constable Briggs said he did not think it necessary at the time.
He cited potential long delays and the need to get permission because of the associated costs.
Senior Constable Briggs said he felt it was a matter of urgency to provide assistance and to get a car to the house, where the family wanted help getting the mother out.
When the car was dispatched, officers were told there was a man armed with a knife in the home and a woman with head injuries who was having trouble walking.
Under questioning from the counsel representing WA Police, Senior Constable Briggs said Ms Tong’s demeanour was upset, and she was pacing.
He believed her mother required assistance due to the reported head injury.
I would do the same again: officer
Under questioning from Coroner Michael Jenkin, Senior Constable Briggs said Ms Tong’s English was “quite good” and while she had an accent, it was not heavy.
He told the court if faced with the same scenario in the future, he would not ask for an interpreter.
The officer in charge of the Midland station at the time also thought police were able to understand Ms Tong.
Coroner Jenkin will this week examine whether there were communication barriers between the family and police, and how the family was notified of Mr Tong’s death.
It is set down for four days.Internet Explorer Channel Network