Mum’s tears after son gunned down by police

An inquest into the fatal police shooting of a man who lunged at cops armed with knives has wrapped up.

Police who gunned down a man when he lunged at them with knives told him “we don’t want to shoot you” and urged him to stop before the fatal moment erupted, a court has been told.

The statement preceded a tearful tribute from the mother of slain man Damon Paul William Savage, who remembered her “loving, caring” son as an inquest into his death wrapped up on Tuesday.

Mr Savage, 27, died during a police shooting in Dakabin, north of Brisbane, in August 2020.

Officers had attended the property after he attacked his girlfriend with a knife on August 27, causing a serious injury.

Damon Savage was shot dead by police in 2020. Picture: Supplied
Damon Paul William Savage.
Pictures: Facebook
Pictures: Facebook

Mr Savage was tasered by Acting Sergeant Stephen Warrentini, to no effect, as he approached the group of four armed with knives, before lunging at the police.

He was then shot dead.

At the end of Tuesday’s proceedings, a heartbreaking statement from Mr Savage’s mother Kathleen Schwartzrock was read to the court.

She described him as a “cheeky child” who grew into a “spirited” adult loved by his siblings, mother, nieces and friends.

“In losing Damon, we have all lost some of our future,” Ms Schwartzrock’s barrister Claire O’Connor read.

“Damon no longer has a voice, but I want you to know that he was not the violent person portrayed by the media. His behaviour on the night he died was very out of character.

“He was a loving, caring son, brother, uncle and friend.”

Ms Schwartzrock said she would never forget the joy her son brought to her life.

“Everyday I wake up and for a microsecond I feel normal – then I remember that Damon was stolen from us,” she said.

“Our lives have changed forever. There is an emptiness where Damon should be.”

Damon Savage was shot dead by police in 2020 after he lunged at them while armed with knives at a property in Dakabin. Picture: Facebook
Damon Savage was shot dead by police in 2020 after he lunged at them while armed with knives at a property in Dakabin. Picture: Facebook

The Coroners Court in Brisbane was told the officers who shot Mr Savage used “appropriate force” and had appropriately used their weapons during the fatal encounter.

Chief Inspector Corey Allen gave evidence the officers’ risk assessment of the scenario was accurate, given the presence of an “edged weapon and injured person”.

“Police just have to advance to a point of contact to get the information about what sort of threat they’re facing,” he said.

“It’s an impossibility to isolate, contain or even negotiate with someone if you don’t know where they are.”

The inquest into Mr Savage’s death is examining whether police acted appropriately when they shot him, including if any “less than lethal” options were available to them at the time.

Mr Savage had been known to be struggling with his mental health in the lead-up to his death.

In Inspector Allen’s statement, displayed to the court, he said Constable Scott Westerweller told Mr Savage: “Don’t, don’t do this Damon” and “Mate, we don’t want to shoot you”.

Mr Westerweller has since left the Queensland Police Service (QPS).

Inspector Allen said Sergeant Warrentini’s decision to deploy the taser might not have been the most effective choice as it was not a foolproof weapon, even at close range.

Asked if he thought the police’s use of force was appropriate, Inspector Allen said: “Yes, I do.”

The court was told the use of other nonlethal options like tasers, batons and capsicum sprays did not guarantee incapacitation at close range and could risk exposure to “greater risk” in scenarios where people were armed with weapons.