A MAN who was tasered by police after being pulled over for a random breath test had flashed bright lights on his car “in a signal of defiance”, a Perth court has heard.
Senior Constable Grantley James Keenan, who has been stood aside from operational duties, is on trial in Perth Magistrates Court charged with two counts of common assault over the incident in Fremantle on March 31, 2017.
James Bartlett, his wife and a friend were heading to a restaurant for dinner when they were directed to a car park where a yellow sticker defect notice was put on his large Jeep for oversized wheels, a cracked windscreen and a light bar installed on the top of the vehicle.
Senior Constable Andrew Evans, who was part of the five-officer team, told the court on Tuesday he “formed the impression the motorist wasn’t particularly happy” with the non-compliance notice and flashed the “very bright” LED light bar.
“I saw it as a signal of defiance,” he said.
“That was when the trouble started.”
Mr Bartlett reversed slightly then moved forward, but a probationary officer got in the car’s path and she told him to stop, as did Keenan.
A commotion ensued, Snr Const Evans said, and the woman screamed when her husband was tasered by Keenan, who had tried to pull the key out of the ignition.
Video filmed by the male passenger in the rear seat showed Keenan warning “you are about to be tasered” and a man is heard saying “it’s not illegal to flash lights”.
The court heard the initial moments of the altercation had not been captured and Keenan claimed in his use-of-force report he had first shone the taser’s red target light on Mr Bartlett’s abdomen, told him what it was and instructed him let go of his hand.
WA Police Academy trainer Christopher Markham said officers were trained to give verbal warnings before deploying a taser, which should only be used for incapacitation when they reasonably suspect – then believe, as a situation escalates – there is a risk of serious injury.
“You would expect the subject would comply with those instructions,” Mr Markham said.
He said Keenan could have considered “empty hand tactics” such as downward “hammer” strikes on Mr Bartlett’s arm but it was up to the officer to determine the appropriate course of action in each circumstance.
“That’s just another tactical option that could have been considered,” Mr Markham said.