News report below followed by some comments from a reader. My reader did the smart thing. He didn't run
The family of an apprentice tradesman killed by a senior constable in Western Sydney has called for a royal commission into policing in New South Wales.
Bradley Balzan, 20, was walking to the shops at St Marys when four plain-clothed officers pulled up next to him in an unmarked car two days ago.
His grandmother Nola Balzan said one of the undercover officers asked, "What are you doing?" but failed to disclose he was with the police force.
"He ignored them, which, if you didn't know a person, you would ignore them — then they kept following him and he said something like 'I am sick of this, f-off' and he ran because he was scared," she said.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Jones said on Wednesday he was acting "suspiciously" but would not elaborate on his behaviour.
With four officers chasing after him, Bradley Balzan sprinted only a few hundred metres home and into his backyard on Acacia Street.
Nola Balzan said she believes he grabbed a shovel to defend himself before his pet dog bit one of the officers, sending him to hospital with minor injuries.
Police claim Bradley Balzan snatched the gun from one of two senior constables and fired "at least one shot" before one of them fired the deadly shot.
"Bradley has no criminal record — I think it was police brutality because everything that happened to him was terrifying," Nola Balzan said.
Bradley Balzan was treated by paramedics but died shortly after going into cardiac arrest while his father, Adam, was told to stay inside. "Even at that stage, the officers hadn't identified themselves as police," Nola Balzan said.
"Adam said, 'Is that my son?' and they said, 'We don't know' — Bradley doesn't drive so he doesn't have a licence with photo ID." "They ended up taking a photo and showing him, and it was Bradley's face with blood all over it so that's how he knew it was his son, which is absolutely crazy … it was traumatising."
Adam Balzan hasn't been able to return home since the tragedy on his backdoor step but told the ABC "police must be held accountable for their actions".
Nola Balzan said her son was "devastated". "They have only one child and now they have none," she said. "[Bradley] was handsome, he was cheeky, he made us laugh, he loved his family, he loved his pets, his friends and mountain biking."
An internal police investigation which will be carried out by homicide detectives promises to scrutinise the actions of the two senior constables before the findings are independently reviewed.
But Nola Balzan is calling for a royal commission style of inquiry into the state's police force following the shooting.
"Think before you shoot. There's pepper spray, which was used on Bradley, there's tasers that they are allowed to use which would have been a deterrent," she said.
"Shooting someone in the stomach is not shooting to stop, that's shooting to kill," she said.
Nola Balzan said Christmas used to be the one time of the year she looked forward to and when all eight of her grandchildren would come together under one roof.
"Christmas is now dead to us — I have cancelled our lunch, it doesn't feel right with Bradley not here — I don't know how we are going to come back from this," she said. "A good deal of people are going to be missing him."
Bradley Balzan was only a year into his apprenticeship as a tradesman and had recently started taking a course to become a barman.
A reader writes:
I too was once stopped by two out of uniform police who did not identify themselves as police. It frightened me too.
I was in the bush on crown land up the back of where I lived, just sitting, contemplating things, which as you know, contemplation is a pastime of mine.
Both men were armed with rifles. I presumed them to be deer hunters. One demanded of me, "What are you doing here?" I replied, "Nothing, just sitting." He repeated his demand several times, to which I made the same reply each time.
His question was was not asked as an enquiring question, but as a demand for an answer. His eyes were piecing and his manner was very very assertive. And he gave no explanation of why he was challenging me; no introduction, no identification that he was police, nothing; he was just aggressive man with a rifle repeating a demand that I tell him what I am doing there.
The second armed man stood several steps back, as if ready to back up his mate. I was very frightened. I thought I was going to be murdered. I felt that if I fled I would be shot, and if I moved I would be shot.
Eventually they turned and left, both giving me a parting look as if they could kill me if they wanted to.
At the time I frequently swam at a local pool, and one of the local policemen swam there too. While we both took a rest at the shallow end from swimming laps, I mentioned the incident to him. He told me not to worry about it, that they were just two off duty police doing some deer shooting up the back.
That was no reassurance to me. Some men should not become police. If the story in this linked article is as described, that plain clothes police bailed up the young man without identifying themselves as police, then I can well appreciate his fear, and can understand why he ran. To then be chased, grappled and shot is tragic and criminal -- if that is the case.