Death of Elijah Doughty
On 29 August 2016, Elijah Doughty, a fourteen-year-old Indigenous Australian, was involved in a fatal traffic collision with a ute whilst riding a motorbike. The 56 year-old white male driver of the ute was also the owner of the motorcycle, which he had reported stolen the previous day, and was chasing Doughty at the time. However, there is no evidence that Doughty had stolen the motorbike, with his friends claiming he was handed the bike in the reserve where he was killed.
The driver was subsequently charged with manslaughter but was acquitted by a jury on 21 July 2017 after a trial at the Supreme Court of Western Australia; however, he was found guilty of the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death.
The incident led to significant protests and increased racial tensions within Kalgoorlie, with accusations that the driver was not charged with, or convicted of, a more serious crime only because Doughty was Indigenous.
On 28 August 2016, the owner of the motorbike and his wife had been out visiting friends, and when they returned home, he found that two children's motorbikes were missing. One motorcycle was a red 70cc Zhejiang, referred to by the man who had hit Doughty as "the little Chinese bike"; the other was a red Honda 50 motorcycle that had been stolen at the same time and, according to the man, held sentimental value for his wife. The owner searched streets near his home until 10:30pm. The next morning he resumed this search; at 8:30am he was parked near Gribble Creek, where the police had told him dirtbikes often appear, when he saw one of his bikes ridden by a hoodie-clad figure. He chased the bike in his Nissan Navara ute along a dirt track, colliding with it when "the bike unexpectedly turned right in front of him", killing Doughty.
Doughty's injuries included his skull being split in half, brain stem snapped, spinal cord severed, most of his ribs broken, pelvis fractured, and leg and ankle mangled. His body was found 9.5 metres from the largest piece of wreckage; the ute had continued in a straight line for 34 metres.
Kalgoorlie's acting police commander, Darryl Gaunt, told the media that the bike Doughty was riding had been reported stolen the night before his death, though it's not clear where Doughty got it.
The following day, a protest occurred outside the Kalgoorlie Courthouse. Approximately 200 people, some armed with rocks and bottles, broke down the gates of the court and surrounded police; who used pepper spray and riot shields in response. Twelve police officers were injured during the disorder, with one requiring stitches, while several demonstrators were arrested. Five police cars and a local business were damaged.
Darryl Doughty, Elijah's father, explained that the trouble started when court guards decided to lock the front door. Relatives and friends had wanted to hear the other side of the story, however they were refused entry to the court. The police prosecutor informed Darryl that the matter would be put off until that afternoon and completed by video link, and obtained Darryl's phone number. However Darryl was not contacted and the accused was flown to Perth instead.
With tensions rising, Darryl addressed the gathered crowd asking them to calm down; however, by then a small group had already damaged a police vehicle.
With a vigil set-up at the site of Doughty's death, Kalgoorlie Police Superintendent Darryl Gaunt says his officers have witnessed non-Aboriginal residents driving fast and close to the bush vigil where Doughty died, yelling abuse at mourners.
Investigation and trial
The driver was interviewed by police the same day as Doughty's death and said he was "trying to catch up with a motorbike that I know, I think, is mine, and hoping that the rider would go into the bush and fall off".
The ute driver was charged with manslaughter and pleaded not guilty after his offer to plead guilty to the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death was rejected by the state.
During the trial, the ute driver, who cannot legally be identified, stated he had not intended to hit Doughty and claimed that Doughty had "veered in front of him". The driver admitted however he could not prevent the collision because he was driving too close to the motorbike.
On 21 July 2017, the jury in the trial found the driver not guilty of manslaughter but convicted him of dangerous driving occasioning death. Following the verdict, members of the public gallery screamed abuse at the defendant and the jury; the court was briefly adjourned to allow their removal by security.
Supporters of Doughty, watching the proceedings in Kalgoorlie via video link, protested the verdict, many wearing T-shirts with the Black Lives Matter slogan. The protest was described by journalists as vocal but peaceful.
Following the jury verdict on 21 July, a number of rallies and vigils were held across Australia to call for justice for Doughty. A crowd of approximately 150 protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 24 July 2017 while chanting "What do we want? Justice. What have we got? Fuck all." Some protestors allegedly vandalised the façade of the Supreme Court by spreading red ochre, while one woman screamed "This is the blood of Aboriginal people, don't wait for this to be your children's."
On 26 July 2017, protestors in Brisbane sat on the road to block the intersection of Albert St and Adelaide St. Another protest took place in Melbourne on 28 July 2017, in which protestors marched to Flinders Street railway station then sat on the road and started a fire in a metal drum for the purpose of a smoking ceremony, blocking one of the city's busiest intersections. One man was arrested and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade extinguished the fire.
On 30 July, comedian Chris Lilley apologised for reposting a controversial video a few days after the verdict. It was a music video titled "Squashed Nigga" and was part of his 2011 TV comedy series, Angry Boys. It featured his fictional character S.mouse singing about an Aboriginal boy who had died from being run over by a truck and the video included a boy lying on a road. Many criticised the timing of the posting, however Lilley insisted there was no relation to "current news stories".
On 28 August 2017, police charged Doughty's father, Darryl, over an incident at the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court. The distraught father was selected for a security search with a metal detector wand by a male court security and custodial officer, but police allege he failed to comply and left the building. Police claim Darryl was seen "acting aggressively" towards a member of the public and allegedly assaulted a court officer causing minor injuries. He was charged with assault and released on bail after appearing at court where he pleaded not guilty. He is due to appear in court again on 6 September[needs update].
The man responsible for Doughty's death was granted parole after serving about 19 months behind bars.
Suicide prevention expert, academic and social justice advocate Gerry Georgatos, who has supported the Doughty family since his death, stated that "Someone has to call out the perpetrator of Elijah's death for what he did. It was rage filled violence, of such intense rage that it was murderous."
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