Sharon Pepper, Kirsty Pepper, Jenny Johnstone and George Johnstone stand behind their ALS solicitor Hannah Donaldson after the coronial inquest into Dwayne Johnstone's death was suspended.
Sharon Pepper, Kirsty Pepper, Jenny Johnstone and George Johnstone stand behind their ALS solicitor Hannah Donaldson after the coronial inquest into Dwayne Johnstone's death was suspended.

Family of killed inmate says he won't 'die in vain'

THE family of an Aboriginal man who was killed while in custody in Lismore are "elated" the matter has been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate whether charges will be laid against the officer who fired the fatal shot.

Numulgi man Dwayne Johnstone, 43, was under Corrective Services custody on March 15 last year when he was transported to Lismore Base Hospital for treatment.

Mr Johnstone had suffered what was believed to be an epileptic seizure while in the Lismore Courthouse cells and was taken to the hospital.

After his treatment, Mr Johnstone was being escorted by two correctional service officers back to the transport van when he assaulted one of the officers.

 

Dwayne Johnstone, who was shot dead by prison officers at Lismore Base Hospital in 2019. Picture: Tim Hunter.
Dwayne Johnstone, who was shot dead by prison officers at Lismore Base Hospital in 2019. Picture: Tim Hunter.

 

Mr Johnstone while handcuffed and ankle cuffed managed to escape and run across Uralba St, Lismore as one officer followed in pursuit.

The second officer, who was the only officer armed, fired two warning shots before firing the third fatal shot at Mr Johnstone.

He was treated immediately by hospital staff but died two hours later from injuries sustained from the bullet wound in his back.

NSW Coroner, Magistrate Therese O'Sullivan, suspended the coronial inquest into Mr Johnstone's death on Thursday after she felt the evidence she had heard had crossed the threshold of what could be deemed as an indictable offence.

She has referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which will now conduct its own investigation to see whether charges should be laid.

Aboriginal Legal Service's North Coast region managing solicitor, Hannah Donaldson, spoke on behalf of Mr Johnstone's partner, Kirsty Pepper, his father George Johnstone, and stepmother Jenny Johnstone after the referral was made.

 

An investigation was initially undertaken following a fatal shooting outside Lismore Base Hospital in 2019.
An investigation was initially undertaken following a fatal shooting outside Lismore Base Hospital in 2019.

 

"We are very pleased with the outcome of the proceedings," Ms Donaldson said.

"We would like to thank counsel assisting Dr Dwyer and the coroner for their preparation and professionalism.

"There is still a very long way to go to obtaining closure for the loss of our partner and son, but we are so glad the matter has been taken so seriously."

Mr George Johnstone mirrored these sentiments by stating the legal team was "beaut" and he was very grateful for their assistance throughout the inquest.

 

Dwayne Johnstone's mother, Kerry Crawford, is elated the coronial inquest into her son's death has been referred to the DPP.
Dwayne Johnstone's mother, Kerry Crawford, is elated the coronial inquest into her son's death has been referred to the DPP.

 

Meanwhile, Mr Johnstone's mother, Kerry Crawford said she was "elated" with the result.

"His death wasn't in vain as far as I'm concerned now," Ms Crawford said.

"It's a step forward for every death in custody, black, white or whoever.

"(Dwayne would) be up there laughing, cheering because that's the way he was."

The inquest will resume once either the DPP concludes its investigation or a jury hands down a verdict in the event that charges are laid.



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