A former Canberran and the son of a prominent Canberra businessman has been charged with the murder of a young Aboriginal man in Central Australia this week.
Northern Territory policeman Constable Zachary Rolfe was charged on Wednesday (13 November) over the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker, who was shot dead at Yuendumu, about 300 kilometres from Alice Springs, on Saturday night.
NT Police Association president Paul McCue confirmed the police officer charged with the shooting would be “vigorously defending the charge” against him.
Constable Rolfe, 28, is a former Canberran who moved to pursue a career with the Northern Territory Police Force and last year received a bravery award.
He is also the son of prominent Canberra business owners and philanthropists Richard and Debbie Rolfe, who both were appointed Members of the Order of Australia in 2017.
The death of Mr Walker has been widely reported following an out-of-session court hearing where Constable Rolfe was released on bail to re-appear in Alice Springs Local Court on 19 December.
In a statement on Wednesday night, Northern Territory Police said the officer has been suspended on pay.
News agencies have reported that two police officers went inside a home at Yuendumu to arrest Mr Walker for alleged breaches of his suspended sentence when the fatal shooting took place.
Northern Territory Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Michael White said Mr Walker was shot after he lunged at police while armed with a weapon. One of the officers was also injured in the incident.
However, the family of Mr Walker has disputed that version. Both officers were wearing body cameras.
The death has been declared a death in custody.
Mr Walker’s death prompted rallies in Yuendumu on Tuesday, with more held in several major Australian cities during the week, including here in Canberra.
The Northern Territory magistrate at Constable Rolfe’s bail hearing warned the public not to jump to conclusions about the incident, in order to enable a fair hearing to go ahead in December.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner also called on “everyone at this extremely difficult time to be as respectful and peaceful as possible”.
Constable Rolfe joined the Northern Territory Police in 2016 after graduating from Canberra Grammar School and then as an officer in the Australian Army.
He and another police officer received awards for their bravery during two courageous rescues in a flooded river, 30 kilometres from Alice Springs, in 2016.
In his first week on the job in the NT, Constable Rolfe, Acting Sergeant Kirstina Jamieson and a member of the public, Michael Priestly, rescued a Taiwanese man clinging on to a tree in the middle of the fast-flowing Hugh River after escaping his car.
Constable Rolfe then travelled five kilometres to located a woman passenger who had been swept away, stripping down to his underwear to single-handedly rescue the woman.
He received the Royal Humane Society’s highest bravery award.