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Police accused of bravado in man's death -

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Police accused of bravado in man's death

Simon Lauder reported this story on Friday, October 23, 2009 12:42:00

SHANE MCLEOD: Police in Victoria are being criticised for relying too much on bravado and not
enough on training, with an officer being accused of precipitating the shooting of a drug affected
man in 2004.

Twenty-seven-year-old Gregory Biggs bled to death as a result of the shooting which happened after
he threatened police with swords at a busy Melbourne intersection.

The Victorian Coroner Audrey Jamieson has found the death was preventable and the policeman who
shot Mr Biggs may have committed an indictable offence by not following safety procedures.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: When police came across Gregory Biggs on the 22nd of May in 2004 they saw him
attacking a pedestrian crossing in North Carlton with what looked like a pole.

When they got closer they could see the man had swords. Moments later Mr Biggs was running away
into the darkness and some nearby parklands where he bled to death from a gunshot wound.

Coroner Audrey Jamieson has found that although Mr Biggs instigated the disturbance, the outcome
was down to the police. Outside the court Gregory Biggs' mother Janet Cooper spoke of her son's
gentle nature.

JANET COOPER: He was a very beautiful, loving, kind person and he never was an aggressor but he
would defend himself if he needed to.

SIMON LAUDER: The Coroner found there's little doubt Gregory Biggs' own drug use and his own
behaviour led to the stand-off. Mr Biggs had been jailed for malicious wounding and was released in

Although he was unemployed he collected trinkets and vintage toys from op-shops and garage sales
and stored them in a warehouse in the hope of opening his own store.

He had no history of mental illness but more than 10 years of drug use under his belt.

A girlfriend told the inquest Gregory Biggs had been using cannabis daily and frequently using the
powerful amphetamine ice. He'd become paranoid and aggressive, once using a sword to smash up his
own possessions.

In the days before he was shot by police Mr Biggs went to see his parole officer. She told the
inquest he appeared incoherent and agitated, saying he'd been drugged at a nightclub by a police
informant and believed he was being set up.

He also had contact with the Police Transport Management Unit when he peacefully surrendered a
crossbow and a sword.

When Sergeant Samuel Cahir and Leading Senior Constable John Hawkins saw Mr Biggs creating a
disturbance on Lygon Street, Sergeant Cahir got out of the car, drew his gun and shouted, "Police!
Don't move, drop the weapon."

The Coroner has found that Mr Biggs advanced and swung the sword, smashing the rear window of the
car. Fearing for his safety Constable Hawkins drove off, leaving the Sergeant exposed.

When Mr Biggs lifted his sword again Sergeant Cahir fired and the bullet hit Mr Biggs in the upper
torso. He fled into the park and his body was found under a footbridge more than an hour later
along with two swords.

A search of his Brunswick home uncovered 20 swords and other weapons and more swords were found at
his warehouse along with a small drugs lab.

The Coroner told the court this morning that had Mr Biggs been followed into the park by the
officers he may not have bled to death.

She also found in short that Sergeant Cahir's decision to confront Gregory Biggs before making any
plan precipitated the shooting and also put himself and another officer at risk.

Audrey Jamieson told the court such tragic circumstances occur when police rely too heavily on
bravado and spontaneity instead of training.

The Coroner noted Victoria Police has improved its safety training since the tragedy but she says
it isn't as thorough as it should be.

Gregory Biggs' mother Janet Cooper appears to support that finding.

JANET COOPER: They must have Tasers and they must have much more training. And they should adhere
to their training.

SIMON LAUDER: The Coroner says Sergeant Samuel Cahir got himself into a situation which left him no
alternative but to defend himself with his gun and his failure to take proper care means he may
have committed an offence under occupational health and safety laws.

That finding will be handed to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

SHANE MCLEOD: Simon Lauder.