A police officer has been arrested as a suspect in the fatal shooting of Joyce Clarke, who died in Geraldton in September last year.
Major Crime detectives travelled to Geraldton and arrested the officer on Thursday morning, but no charges have yet been laid.
Ms Clarke’s family and the WA Police Force have been notified of the development.
Ms Clarke, a 29-year-old mother of one, was shot on September 17 on a street in the Geraldton suburb of Karloo after police were overheard by witnesses telling her to drop a knife.
She was taken to Geraldton Regional Hospital but died of her injuries.
Her death sparked protests outside Geraldton police station, with the local Indigenous community demanding answers about why lethal force was used instead of a taser or another non-lethal method.
Her foster mother, Leslie “Anne” Jones, said at the time the system failed her family.
“My family feels very hurt and I am devastated because I know we are not going to get answers from the police,” she said.
No ‘cover-up’: Police Commissioner
One witness to the shooting said Ms Clarke was not lunging at police but had taken a step back before she was shot.
Questions were also raised over why police were not wearing body cameras during the incident.
Speaking the day after Ms Clarke’s death, WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said eight officers were sent to the scene after police received reports a person at the location had a knife.
“Some verbal communication took place between attending police and Ms Clarke before one officer fired one round from his service pistol, which struck Ms Clarke,” he said.
“There will not be any cover-up or skimming over facts.
“This tragic event and loss of life demands and does require a full and complete investigation and that is what will take place.”
Struggle with demons revealed
Details of Ms Clarke’s troubled early life, blighted by drugs and mental illness, also emerged after her death.
She had a criminal record that stretched to 22 pages, including 13 convictions for criminal damage, and had been most recently jailed for stealing a mobile phone from a house.
Then while in custody she set fire to her cell at Greenough Regional Prison, later telling police there were “spirits” inside.
This led to more serious charges being brought against her.
During her sentencing for those charges in May last year, the Supreme Court heard the problems that haunted Ms Clarke during her life started before she was born.
Justice Lindy Jenkins said although she had not formally been assessed for foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), “a psychiatric report … satisfies me that it’s more likely than not that you suffer from FASD”.
Justice Jenkins noted in sentencing that Ms Clarke was placed into state care soon after she was born because her birth mother was an alcoholic and her home life was “chaotic”.
Geraldton Police enforce a liquor restriction in town due to the “high emotions” from the events today until Saturday. Customers Ltd to light beer, one bottle of premium wine and sale of bottled spirits, cask wine, full strength beer and fortified wine is prohibited. @abcperth pic.twitter.com/bYFEetj6zd
— Laura Meachim (@LauraMeachim) September 18, 2019
Judge warned of ‘disaster’ after prison release
But the judge described “significant intellectual impairments” that were present in Ms Clarke’s childhood.
She was bullied at school and “started drinking alcohol excessively at around seven years of age”.
She later started using methamphetamines and sniffing petrol, and was also was recorded to have attempted to take her own life at the age of 12.
“It was your mother’s alcohol abuse which, in all likelihood, has resulted in your suffering permanent damage whilst you were an unborn child,” Justice Jenkins said.
She urged prison authorities to have Ms Clarke formally assessed for FASD while she was serving her sentence.
“It would seem to me a disaster for both Ms Clarke and the community if she was simply released from this sentence without being on parole and without being supervised,” Justice Jenkins said.
A Department of Justice spokesperson confirmed at the time that there was currently no routine screening for FASD in adult prisons.
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