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An Australian jury found a White police officer not guilty for the murder of an Aboriginal young man in a case that sparked outrage across the country over the issues of race and inequality and a trial that has transfixed the nation, the BBC reported.
The jury acquitted officer Zachary Rolfe on charges of murder and two charges of manslaughter over the death of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker in 2019.
At the time, Rolfe and his colleague, officer Adam Eberl, were attempting to arrest Walker in the remote northern town of Yuendumu, a majority Aboriginal community located about 190 miles from Alice Spring.
A struggle ensued after Walker resisted arrest, stabbing Rolfe in the shoulder with scissors. Rolfe’s bodycam showed that he then fired one shot at the teen at close range and two more shots afterward as Eberl tried to restrain Walker on the ground.
The prosecution said that the initial shot was justified but that the additional ones were unnecessary and unreasonable, the Washington Post wrote.
Walker’s death was labeled as “death in custody,” but the case caused an uproar in Australia, where no police officer has been found guilty of killing an Indigenous person.
Following the verdict, Walker’s families and Indigenous representatives expressed disappointment at the decision.
The case also coincided with mounting worries over the deaths of Indigenous people in custody in a country still grappling with race and its colonial past. Some legal analysts and advocates saw Rolfe’s prosecution as a litmus test for the judicial system’s willingness to treat Indigenous deaths in detention seriously.