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Abbott Murder Trial: Wallace Possessed - Constable

"Possessed" Wallace Would Have Killed Abbott, Alleges Police Colleague

Reporter: Richard Scott

The High Court today heard evidence from Constable Jason Dombroski, the police officer who was with Constable Keith Abbott during the 60 to 90 second period before Steven Wallace slumped to the ground on Waitara’s main street, felled by a fatal volley of shots from Abbott’s Glock pistol. Abbott faces charges of murder and manslaughter over the shooting.

Answering questions put by Michael Behrens QC for the prosecution, Dombroski testified that Wallace had attacked his patrol car with a golf club. Wallace then ignored several warnings, repeatedly screamed that he would kill Abbott, hurled the golf club at Abbott, and rushed towards a retreating Abbott with a raised baseball bat shortly before he was shot. Despite having over 2 years to reflect on the events of that night, Dombroski confirmed that he would not handle the incident any differently if it happened today.

Dombroski recounted how he and his colleague Constable Jillian Herbert, had been called out from New Plymouth at 3:40 am on 30 April 2000 to investigate reports that windows had been broken at the Waitara Police Station. On arriving in Waitara in their marked police car, Dombroski described how an enraged Wallace attacked his patrol car with a baseball bat in Waitara’s main street, smashing the windscreen and driver side window. Wallace looked “possessed”, Dombroski claimed.

Dombroski returned to the police station where he checked out a Glock semi automatic pistol with ammunition. Abbott arrived whilst he was doing so. He mistakenly told Dombroski that he thought the offender was a David Toa, a Waitara resident. Having been told that a police dog handler was on his way, the two officers then drove a short distance up McLean Street to apprehend Wallace.

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Dombroski drew his weapon, aimed at Wallace and, after warning him that the officers were armed, ordered him to put down the baseball bat and golf club he was carrying. Wallace ignored Dombroski and advanced upon Abbott, screaming obscenities and repeatedly telling Abbott that he was going to kill him. Abbott addressed Wallace as “David” and “pleaded” with Wallace to put the weapons down whereupon Wallace hurled his golf club at Abbott. Abbott allegedly walked backwards some 50 metres in attempting to maintain a distance between himself and the advancing Wallace.

Wallace continued to scream and threaten to kill Abbott, who audibly cocked his weapon and warned Wallace, “Armed police. Stop or I will shoot”. Abbott then fired a warning shot over Wallace’s head. At this, Wallace seemed to Dombroski to speed up his approach, and drew the baseball back up over his head. It was then, from a distance that Dombroski estimated at less than 3 metres, that Abbott fired a volley of 3 shots in quick succession. Dombroski’s finger was on the trigger of his own pistol and he was about to shoot when Abbott opened fire.

After the shooting, Dombroski told how Abbott did not move until some tape could be found to mark his position. Dombroski also rejected allegations made yesterday by prosecution witness Barbara George that he had pocketed an object from the road after the shooting.

Dombroski’s testimony dominated the third day of the prosecution’s case against Abbott. Dombroski’s testimony continues the pattern of police witnesses supporting Abbott’s actions in shooting Wallace. Under cross-examination by defence barrister Susan Hughes, Dombroski spoke of Abbott as a calm and exemplary officer, and maintained that the two officers had followed proper police procedures and training to the letter in handling the incident.

Dombroski refuted prosecution suggestions that there were other options available to subdue Wallace: this forms a central part of the case against Abbott. The officer had little confidence in the capacity of OC (pepper) spray or long handled batons to incapacitate an offender armed with a baseball bat. The police dog handler had not arrived and it was claimed that an “out of control” Wallace had to be apprehended immediately to prevent any further danger to persons or property. Furthermore, Dombroski claimed to have attempted to defuse the situation in approaching Wallace to speak to him before Wallace attacked his patrol car.

Earlier in the day, the jury heard the evidence of Alan Fletcher, the ex-partner of prosecution witness Ms Barbara George who gave her evidence yesterday. Fletcher’s evidence closely matched that given by George. Susan Hughes, cross-examining for the defence, quizzed Fletcher about his failure in previous statements to describe the timing of the “4 or 5” shots he heard. One apparent discrepancy in prosecution evidence to date is Dombroski’s testimony that Abbott shot Wallace 3 times. On the opening day of the trial, the prosecution asserted that four bullet wounds were found in Wallace’s body.

The trial continues.

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