Teens deaths stoking race tensions


Two Aboriginal teenagers were shot by police in central Sydney on Saturday after mounting a crowded footpath in a stolen car and hitting a bystander, stoking race tensions in the city.

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An Australian aborigine performs with a didgeridoo.

The 14-year-old driver was hit in the chest and arm and his passenger, 18, took a bullet to the neck after police opened fire on the windscreen of their car as it sped onto a busy pavement in the city's Kings Cross nightclub zone.

Assistant police commissioner Mark Murdoch said onlookers “literally jumped for their lives” as the stolen vehicle mounted the kerb at around 4am, mowing down a 29-year-old woman who was hospitalised with chest injuries.

Murdoch said police had recognised the driver and passenger as youths from the impoverished Aboriginal district of Redfern, and the pair had sped the car onto the footpath “to avoid apprehension” as officers had approached them.

“That vehicle struck a female pedestrian. That female pedestrian was pushed under the front of the vehicle,' Murdoch told reporters.

“At that point police, in an attempt to protect that person, discharged a number of shots into the vehicle.”

Whether “that decision turned out to be the right decision” would be determined by an internal investigation but Murdoch said his advice was “that the police had little other option” to protect onlookers.

“We have a vehicle being driven on the footpath... when there are many tens, if not potentially hundreds of people. That to me presents a significant risk of harm to the community,” Murdoch said.

Both teenagers were in hospital and the driver was in a “serious but stable” condition. Murdoch said they were expected to recover from their injuries.

Police had met with Redfern's Aboriginal elders to discuss the incident, Murdoch added, urging calm in the inner-city community where deaths linked to police pursuits have been a flashpoint for riots in the past.

“I would hope (the community) understands that we need to investigate exactly what happened and why it happened,” he said.

“As soon as we know something, they'll know.”

Scores of police were injured in a wild nine-hour standoff in Redfern in 2004 following the death of 17-year-old TJ Hickey, who was impaled on a fence as - according to his family - officers chased him on his bicycle.

An inquiry ultimately cleared the police over Hickey's death, but the violence, which saw the riot squad pelted with bricks, rocks and petrol bombs, shook the city.

Redfern Aboriginal leader Mick Mundine said Saturday's meeting between the police and about 30 family had gone well and he was hopeful of the peace holding, with race relations in the community greatly improved since 2004.

“The family don't want this issue and Redfern tied in with it, it's got nothing to do with Redfern and it's just a one-off thing,” Mundine told AFP.

“Even the family and the grandmother have just told people 'just butt out, it's nothing to do with you, nothing to do with Redfern' so that's good.”

Mundine said there would be “one or two who will stir the police just for the sake of trouble” but it was “very quiet here at the moment” and he expected it to stay that way.

“(The family) are angry, would be angry at the police of course, police shooting a 14-year-old boy, shooting at kids in other words. The police have got a lot to answer for,” he said.

“On the other hand, what's a 14-year-old doing in a hot car in the Cross? At least he's not dead, that's the main thing I suppose.”

Aborigines are Australia's most disadvantaged minority, with shorter life expectancy and much higher rates of imprisonment and disease than the broader population. - Sapa-AFP

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