Man claiming to be off-duty NSW police officer allegedly chased and hit Aboriginal boy with ute

A man claiming to be an off-duty police officer chased an eight-year-old Aboriginal boy riding a bike and struck him with his ute, according to a report made to NSW police and the state’s law enforcement watchdog.

Elijah Stevens – grandson of Tanya Day, who died in custody in Victoria in 2017 – had an altercation with another boy at the skate park in Moama, in NSW’s Riverina district, shortly before the incident occurred, according to his father, Warren Stevens.

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Stevens was fishing close to the skate park just after 7pm on 12 March when he said he heard his son screaming, and the loud bangs and revs of a vehicle being driven quickly off-road.

He turned to see a man in a ute with children inside pull up on a footpath and feared the car had run over Elijah.

As he arrived at the scene, Stevens said the driver produced what appeared to be a police badge and said words to the effect of “It’s OK, I’m a police officer. I just wanted to tell your son it’s not all right to hit anyone”.

Stevens said that he “gave him a mouthful” and, noting the presence of children in the car who looked like “he’d [the driver] scared the shit out of them”, asked the man whether he was proud of the example he had set his children.

Stevens’ older boy and Elijah said that the pursuit had been prompted by an exchange of words between the two groups, after which Elijah struck the other boy on the helmet.

Elijah told Stevens he had been struck by the ute when the driver swerved in front of him as he attempted to ride along a footpath towards his father.

Stevens reported the incident to NSW police soon after and was visited by two officers at home later that night, but is yet to provide a formal statement.

He said he had been attempting to contact NSW police again for more than a fortnight but, frustrated with the force’s inaction, reported the incident to the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission on 28 March.

A NSW police spokesperson said: “Officers attached to Murray River Police District are aware of an alleged incident at a skate park on Blair Street, Moama, on Sunday 12 March 2023.

“The matter has since been reported to police and inquiries continue.”

Stevens said he believed he knew the identity of the officer, and said the skate park had CCTV cameras that may have captured part of the incident.

The trauma of his mother’s death compounded the stress of any interaction he had with police, he said, and the family were still grappling with the consequences of her passing.

“I was mortified [after the skate park incident]. I woke up in cold sweats after it, freaking out about it,” Stevens said.

“My son has already been through therapy and all that, because of my mother’s stuff.

“And now he’s gone back again. He’ll have to go back to therapy.”

Tanya Day died in hospital on 22 December 2017 of a brain haemorrhage sustained when she fell and hit her head in the cells of Castlemaine police station 17 days earlier.

She was in the cells because she had been arrested for public drunkenness after being removed by police from a V/Line train from Bendigo to Melbourne.

The coroner who investigated the case referred it to the department of public prosecutions to determine whether criminal negligence occurred, but the family were left “devastated” after the DPP opted against prosecuting any officers involved in the death.