A YOUNG Glen Innes-raised police constable who was shot and killed in a south-west Sydney drug raid was not meant to be at the front of the team that undertook the operation, the NSW Coroner’s Court has heard.
But the 26-year-old, who had just a few weeks in the specialist unit under his belt, “stepped up” when two uniformed officers left the group to pursue who they thought was the drug dealer’s look-out.
Constable William Crews died in September 2010 when, after information was received from a number of informants, police executed a search warrant in the underground car park of a unit complex block in Bankstown.
As they walked along, drug dealer Philip Nguyen jumped out from behind a car. He was brandishing a silver pistol and fired several shots, catching the officers by surprise.
Constable Crews was hit in the arm by a shot from Nguyen, but was ultimately killed by a stray bullet from a fellow officer during the ensuing exchange of fire.
Yesterday an inquest into Constable Crews’ death heard that, as police arrived at the unit complex block following a tip-off, two of the officers ran after a “cockatoo” – the name given to a look-out whose job it is to watch out for police and other threats.
“On this day Bill stepped up,” said Detective Senior Constable Richard McNally, who prepared the operational commands for the raid.
The young man went to the front of the group.
“The officers who should have been doing the entry took off up the road, resulting in the operation being disjointed and disoriented,” Detective Senior Constable McNally said.
“Everyone should have gone together as a group.
“Because of what happened, I believe a confusion occurred. It changed the dynamics of that night.”
The inquest heard that, without the two uniformed officers, the police at the front of the group were not wearing police identification of any kind.
Evidence had previously been given that Nguyen thought the police were in fact rival drug dealers who had come to steal his stash of drugs and money.
Earlier, the court heard there was also a degree of confusion as Constable Crews and his colleagues entered the car park because they had been directed to the wrong garage by Detective Senior Constable McNally.
The officer said that, after talking to a police informant who lived in the building, he had misinterpreted the information given by the informant and pointed the officers in the wrong direction.
“I saw a garage door open, and a car and the light on,” Detective Senior Constable McNally told the inquest.
“Since that time, every single night for months ... I’ve tried to understand how it went the wrong way.”
The inquest continues.