Crews inquest hears tragic evidence

Bill Crews

Bill Crews

“WE NEED to save our mate!’’ an officer screamed seconds after a Glen Innes-raised colleague was shot dead during an ill-fated drug raid inside a south-western Sydney garage.

“I don’t know who shot him,’’ another yelled as other police scrambled behind a wall to take cover following several rapid gunshots.

“He’s dead mate, we can’t get in there to help, Crews is dead.’’

Video footage played during an inquest into the death of Constable “Bill” William Crews, 26, showed confused and distressed members of the Middle Eastern crime squad crying out after their colleague was accidentally shot during an operation to arrest a drug dealer operating out of a Bankstown garage in September, 2010.

The inquest, which began yesterday at Glebe Coroner’s Court, will examine why police rushed into the garage and why there was confusion which led them to run in the wrong direction.

It will also examine why the operation was classified as “low risk’’.

On the night of September 8, Phillip Nguyen, then 55, fired a shot at plain-clothed police as they entered the garage. The bullet hit Constable Crews in his upper left arm.

Detective Senior Constable Dave Roberts returned fire but one of the bullets he shot lodged in the neck of Constable Crews.

When police took cover behind a wall they realised Constable Crews was lying motionless next to a parked silver car.

For 19 minutes they were unable to help him.

They thought Nguyen was still armed and hiding around the corner but he and a co-offender had already escaped to a unit upstairs.

Nguyen is serving a maximum 16-year sentence for the manslaughter of Constable Crews.

Constable Crews’ parents Kel and Sharon were present as they watched the final seconds of their son’s life recorded on police footage of the raid.

Counsel assisting the Coroner, Dean Jordan, said the footage showed it was clear the tragic circumstances surrounding the slain officer’s death “unfolded very quickly indeed’’.

“It is clear that there was confusion in relation to the location of unit eight and the garage,’’ he told the inquest.

The court heard that regardless of whether officers had been able to help Constable Crews straight away, he still would have died from the gunshot wound.

Police believed it was a “low risk’’ operation and that the offender was unlikely to be armed.

A search warrant, to raid the garage and a unit upstairs, was granted after police received a tip-off that an Asian man was selling cocaine and heroin to Middle-Eastern crime gangs in the area.

The court heard police had information to suggest Nguyen was selling drugs to the well-known Hamzy and Kalache families.

The inquest continues.

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