Elijah Holcombe police shooting witness bombshell

| 13.06,09. 12:10 PM |

Elijah Holcombe police shooting witness bombshell

June 13, 2009 12:00am

WITNESSES to the fatal police shooting of a young man have contradicted claims the officer had no choice but to shoot him.

Two women have independently sworn they did not see Elijah Holcombe armed with a knife and said he was at least 15m away from officers when he was shot in the chest. In statements obtained by The Daily Telegraph, the women claim Mr Holcombe, who suffered from mental illness, was "calm" when ordered to stop by police in Cinders Lane, Armidale, this month.

"The second person (a plain clothes police officer) was moving fast but never caught up with the first person (Elijah)," one witness said.

"I estimate the distance between them to be four or five car widths."

The second witness said Mr Holcombe's "demeanor seemed casual" and he was "in no hurry just strolling along". She said he had complied with an undercover officer's orders to stop and was calm, contrary to police claims that he ignored warnings to drop his knife.

"The young man turned around casually and I would say he had a look of bewilderment on his face - but he was fairly calm and casual," the woman said.

"He just turned around and stood still. I can't remember anything about his hands - I was looking at his face. He didn't say anything."

On the day of the shooting Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said the officer had no choice but to shoot Mr Holcombe because he had made threats with a knife and refused to put down the weapon.

One witness said there was no attempt by the undercover officer to negotiate with Mr Holcombe.

"The gun discharged immediately after the third warning. I remember also that the third warning was immediately after the second warning," she said.

"The young man came off the footpath into the gutter. He fell into the gutter. His head moved around a bit. His body moved slightly. I did not see the young man with a weapon."

The sworn statements were made independently by two women who had parked their cars near the scene of the shooting behind the Armidale shopping centre.

Mr Holcombe's widow Allison Garvey had told The Daily Telegraph she is "completely devastated"

"The police were presented with many choices and in every instance they (made) the most careless choice they could make," she said.

A NSW Police spokesman last night refused to comment.

"An independent Critical Incident Investigation team is preparing a report," the spokesman said.

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