Australia policeman faces court over Indigenous man's death

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A police officer made a video appearance in an Outback court on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing on a charge that he murdered a 19-year-old Indigenous man who was shot dead in a desert community.

Constable Zachary Rolfe appeared from his hometown of Canberra, where he has lived while free on bail since Kumanjayi Walker died in the Indigenous community of Yuendumu in central Australia in November.

Rolfe’s four-day hearing, which began in the Alice Springs Local Court on Tuesday, will determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to warrant the police officer standing trial for murder.

Rolfe has not been asked to enter a plea.

Walker’s death was protested at anti-racism rallies around Australia that followed the death in police custody of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minnesota in May.

Judge John Birch on Tuesday was shown video from a body-worn police camera of Walker rushing at officers with an ax at Yuendumu three days before he was shot.

Birch allowed residents of Yuendumu, 290 kilometers (180 miles) northwest of Alice Springs, to watch court proceedings via a video connection.

Rolfe would face a potential life sentence if convicted of murder.

Alice Springs is in the Northern Territory, which has closed its borders to keep out the coronavirus.