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Inquest into Airlie Beach shooting

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THE INQUEST into the death of Luke Gilbert has wrapped up in Cairns, with new data this week showing police shootings in Queensland are the highest in Australia.

Luke Gilbert, 24, was shot and killed by Queensland Police outside the NAB Bank on the Main Street of Airlie Beach, on October 1, 2022.

Data analysis by the ABC’s 7.30 Report has revealed Queensland Police shot more people in the 2022-23 year, than police in the rest of the country combined.

In 2022-23, Queensland police shot 14 people, New South Wales police shot eight, Western Australian police shot two and Victorian and South Australian police shot one.

The Coroner’s Court will review evidence and decide if the actions taken by Senior Constable Murray and Constable Forster on the night of Luke’s death complied with relevant policies and procedures.

Information was received at the pre-inquest conference, on April 18; most notable was footage from Constable Forster’s body camera that showed Mr Gilbert unclipping his knife from his waistband and walking towards police, with his arm at his side.

What has since been revealed is that in an interaction between Mr Gilbert and Constable Forster, where the former bumped into Senior Constable Murray, saying excuse me and walking away – Forster responded with ‘Alright, tough guy’.

The pre-inquest transcript appears to begin immediately after this interaction, although it omits the ‘tough guy’ comment. Constable Forster then says, ‘What’s that, what are you holding onto there bud?’, followed by Mr Gilbert immediately presenting his knife.

At full extension, the knife is approximately 190mm long (tip of blade to base of handle).

Mr Gilbert’s parents feel that Luke presenting his knife was his attempt to comply with Constable Forster’s request.

The body camera footage also captured Mr Gilbert encouraging the officers to shoot him, yelling ‘Shoot me f@ggot’ before Senior Constable Murray and Constable Forster fired five rounds, three of which struck Mr Gilbert on the right side of his chest.

It was these comments, coupled with Mr Gilbert’s mental health history, that led a lawyer to air the ‘suicide by cop’ theory in the inquest, this week, a comment Mr Gilbert’s family find extremely distressing.

“A highly controversial theory, which we dispute emphatically,” they wrote on Instagram.

“We believe Luke’s behaviour that night is indicative of being challenged to a confrontation, in which he was threatened with guns.

Mr Gilbert’s parents said the evaluation of his mental status was based on medical records acquired through a search warrant, and statements from friends and family about his state of mind in the days and weeks leading up to his death, were not considered.

The inquest findings will take some time to be released, while the coroner takes time to review all the evidence and write the final report.

The inquest will also determine whether any recommendations might be made that could reduce the likelihood of deaths occurring in similar circumstances in the future.

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