Teen death inquest halted as charges mulled against cop
Miklos Bolza and Samantha Lock |
A police officer at the wheel of an unmarked police car involved in a fatal collision with an Indigenous teenager will be referred to prosecutors for potential charges.
Jai Kalani Wright has been described by family members as bright, funny, very happy and the life of the party.
He suffered critical head injuries when he collided with Sergeant Benedict Bryant’s unmarked police car, throwing him from a trail bike in inner-city Sydney on February 19, 2022.
The 16-year-old died the following day at Prince Alfred Hospital.
NSW State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan on Tuesday halted an inquest into Jai’s death on its second day.
His family filled the courtroom wearing red and yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the teenager’s face, the Aboriginal flag and the words “Rest in Peace”.
Seated alongside portraits of Jai and a candle bearing a likeness of his face, Ms O’Sullivan ordered the inquest be suspended.
Sgt Bryant will be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide if criminal charges should be laid against him.
An investigator from police watchdog the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission watched the magistrate’s decision remotely by video-link.
Jai’s family erupted into applause and hugged each other in joyful tears outside the court after hearing the news.
His father, Lachlan Wright, said he was happy to be taking the first steps towards revealing the truth and achieving justice for Jai.
“We’ll be here right to the end,” he said.
“This is just the beginning. We know it’s going to take a long time, but we’re up for it. We all are.”
While the DPP had previously looked into the matter, Mr Wright said he held out hope charges would be brought this time as a referral by the coroner held more weight.
“This coronial inquest was set down for two weeks and the decision’s been made in a day-and-a-half,” he said.
“If that is not a clear example of something that really should be referred back to the DPP, I don’t know what is.”
NSW Police said the bike Jai was riding had been stolen, along with a black Mercedes and white BMW, about 7am the day of the collision.
About 7.26am, officers spotted the vehicles stopped at a traffic light in Newtown and noted they were similar to those earlier reported stolen.
After following but losing sight of the vehicles, the constables updated police radio prompting other officers to patrol the area.
The bike Jai was riding was last seen turning right into Sydney Park Road in Alexandria before it was involved in a crash with an unmarked police car at a nearby intersection, according to police.
The Dunghutti boy came from Revesby in Sydney’s southwest and was studying to be an electrical apprentice.
Mr Wright said everyone regretted choices they had made while they were young, but there was no reason for anyone to lose their life because of a mistake.
“We grow from our mistakes, we learn from that,” he said.
“When we become adults, we realise what we did wrong when we were younger and we try to pass that onto our children.”
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