Monday, March 7, 2011

More police aggression during S.E. Queensland floods

Ask Atum Weber what happened to his face and he replies, "I was mugged by the Queensland Police". Mr Weber, 40, a resident of Bardon, and another friend, Scott Cooper, 38, a Sunshine Coast father of three, said they were surprised by a group of police officers while taking a late-night stroll through the flood affected area of Rosalie in the early hours of Thursday 13 January.

Mr Weber claimed police choked him to the point of unconsciousness, punched him in the kidneys repeatedly and slammed his face into the concrete footpath more than seven times during a half hour ordeal before being taken to the Brisbane City Watchhouse and being charged with 'resisting arrest' and 'assaulting a police officer'.

Mr Cooper said he was punched in the face by a senior officer after calling out for assistance. He was later charged with two counts of 'obstructing police'.

The two men and another female friend had driven to the area to check out the floodwaters after an evening spent socialising with friends. They had decided like hundreds of other 'rubberneckers' to take a look at the large pool of floodwater which inundated Nash St, the main shopping strip in the inner-western suburb of Rosalie. "We, weren't drunk, we were sober, calm – just having a good time," Mr Weber said.

"We looked at the water and talked to the cop (stationed near the flood water). It was all good, no problem, so we thought let's go home now. As I was walking along the footpath I came to a treed area (at the corner of Nash and Beck Streets) and then out of the shadows, because it was all dark, somebody grabs me," he said.

Mr Weber said he wasn't aware that the figures were police until after they had begun the alleged attack. "I was just freaked out. People were grabbing me and I say 'Can you remove your hands from me, you are assaulting me', and they go 'This isn't assault mate.' By this time I saw they were police, but I didn't really believe they were doing this without introducing themselves or without questioning us or anything else," he said.

“I moved towards a tree or a post or something, and I grabbed it because I didn't want to be hurt, so we could negotiate. I'm going 'What's going on? What do you want?'

"They kept saying 'Shut up' and 'Stop resisting'. Then this male officer pulls my hair back from behind, a big guy, and puts this forearm choke-hold straight across (points to throat) and I could tell right away he had effectively applied a choke, because it cut off blood supply to my brain, I could feel it right away, and within a few short seconds I lost consciousness."

Mr Cooper also said he didn't know who the figures shining torches who emerged from the shadow of the trees were. "There were torches and there were people and I couldn't honestly say whether they said police or not but the next thing I know they had Atum on the ground and were beating him," Mr Cooper said.

Mr Weber described coming to face first on the concrete with his hands cuffed behind his back with several officers pinning him down, with one punching him repeatedly in the kidneys.

He said he tried instinctively to stand up, which caused the officers to bend his wrists back and pull his arms upwards, causing him "extreme pain", before grabbing by the hair and pummelling his face into the ground.

"Somebody pulled my head back, while they had their knee on my back, then smashed my head into the concrete, pulling it back and smashing it repeatedly. There was also a continued rain of blows to my kidneys," he said.

Mr Weber said he had his head smashed into the ground between seven and ten times in two lots of blows by a female officer, once after trying to get up and the other when he failed to supply his name. "When she asked my name and I said 'Please, just remove the pain and I'll be able to tell you my name, I'll tell you anything you want' she goes 'Your wasting my time, tell me your fucking name!' and then she started smashing my head into the pavement some more," he said.

Mr Weber said he was kept on the ground for around 15 to 20 minutes before eventually being thrown roughly into a paddy wagon along with Mr Cooper.

Mr Weber said he plead constantly during his ordeal with the officers to stop hurting him, even asking his friend Mr Cooper, who had by this time been detained with his hands cuffed, for help. "I was sitting on the ground with my hands cuffed behind my back while Atum's being assaulted. I counted at least nine police in the group," Mr Cooper said.

"He's saying 'Scott, they're hurting me.' I told him 'I can't help you Atum, they've got me in cuffs...' I wanted to do something so I started yelling out 'Help, help, we're being assaulted!' "They told me to shut up or I'd wake the neighbours. I said 'Yeah exactly...' and yelled twice as loud 'Help, help, we're being assaulted by the Queensland Police!'"

Mr Cooper said that after yelling this that a senior officer leant down and punched him "right in the face."

Both the men said they were astonished by how agressive and "amped up" the police were, with Mr Weber speculating the alleged beatings may have been some sort of "vengeance deal" for him asking an officer they encountered earlier to show his ID.

Mr Weber said they first encountered a police officer as they turned the corner of the sidestreet they had parked on and heading towards the flooded area. "When we had gotten out of the car and turned the corner there was a man shining his torch, it turns out he was a police officer but we couldn't see anything because it was completely dark," Mr Weber said.

"I think my friend (Mr Cooper) said, 'Can you show me your ID?' It might be an unusual thing to say to the police, but that's what he said. Then the guy showed him his ID and walked off."

"Someone was shining a torch into our eyes and as far as I remember he said 'Police'. It was very dark as the streetlights were out so I asked him to show me some ID. He flashed his torch at his ID on his belt, then there was a strange pause and he walked off," Mr Cooper said. "Later on after I'd been punched one (police officer) came up shining his torch in my face and said 'Remember me dickhead?' "Then he shone his torch on his face and said something like 'I'm the officer you saw before. Not so smart now are you?'"

Queensland Police released a statement on Tuesday saying that the trio were "behaving aggressively" towards the "lone police officer". "Additional police attended and consequently two men were arrested for obstructing police. Whilst one of the men was handcuffed he assaulted a female police officer," the statement said. [Very likely!]

Mr Cooper posted a note on Facebook last Thursday detailing the allegations of abuse. He said since then a lot of people have raised the possibility that the police mistook them for looters, one he denies. "At no stage did anyone mention anything about looting. We were carrying no bags, we didn't have torches and the police found nothing illegal on us," he said.

The pair will face court in February.


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