An Australian coroner on Wednesday recommended action against police who she said acted like schoolboys in “Lord of the Flies” when they crash-tackled and repeatedly Tasered a Brazilian man who later died.
New South Wales Coroner Mary Jerram said she could not determine what caused the death of 21-year-old student Roberto Laudisio Curti but it was “impossible to believe that he would have died but for the actions of police”.
She recommended that five police be considered for disciplinary charges and that there be an immediate review of the criteria for use of Taser stun guns by New South Wales police.
Officers pursued a shirtless Curti, who had become paranoid and was acting erratically after sharing an LSD tab with two friends, after mistakenly believing he had committed an armed robbery on a Sydney convenience store.
In shocking him at least 14 times, tackling him to the ground and blasting him with capsicum spray, the actions of a number of police were “reckless, careless, dangerous, and excessively forceful”, Jerram said.
“They were an abuse of police powers, in some instances even thuggish.”
Jerram said one probationary constable used his stun gun in a “wild and uncontrolled” manner on the Brazilian who issued terrible screams and groans as half a tonne of police piled on top of him as he lay on a city street.
“A few of the other constables seem to have thrown themselves into a melee with an ungoverned pack mentality, like the schoolboys in 'Lord of the Flies',” she said, referring to the novel and film about boys who turn savage after being stranded on an island.
Jerram said many of the police had “no idea what the problem was, or what threat or crime was supposedly to be averted, or concern for the value of life”.
Police had said that Curti had shown a “superhuman” strength as he struggled against them, but the coroner said evidence from cameras on the Tasers showed he was quickly handcuffed after being bought to the ground.
She said one officer lay across his back, another knelt on him, and that others were holding his arms and legs as he was then repeatedly Tasered by two officers while another sprayed pepper spray in his face.
Minutes later, he was seen to be unresponsive and could not be revived.