Victoria’s anti-corruption agency will investigate two officers involved in the arrest of a man in Epping on Sunday who was left in an induced coma after police kicked and appeared to stomp on his head and run him over.
A video of the incident, which has been circulating on social media, shows the man standing in the middle of a road in the Melbourne suburb as a police car drives towards him. As he walks away, the police car appears to accelerate, hitting him and knocking him to the ground.
A separate video taken some minutes later shows an officer kicking and appearing to stomp on the 32-year-old’s head while he is on the ground.
The two officers will be criminally investigated.
Calls had grown for an independent investigation, with Victoria police initially suspending on full pay the officer responsible for kicking, and referring the matter to the police department’s professional standards command.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (Ibac) commissioner, Robert Redlich QC, said it was “in the public interest to independently investigate this matter”.
“The community is rightfully concerned if someone is injured during an interaction with police,” he said.
Questions persisted, however, about why Victoria police stood down only the officer seen kicking the man’s head, and not the officer who drove the police vehicle into the man.
Deputy police commissioner Neil Paterson saidon Tuesday afternoon the driver of the car had his authority to drive a police vehicle withdrawn, but declined to label the act “inappropriate”, as he did the other officer’s alleged stomp to the head.
“Using a kicking action or any action against the head of a person is not trained by Victoria police – that is outside of our accepted training within Victoria police,” Paterson said.
“Naturally, we will also undertake our own examination on the use of force in these incidents.”
However, Paterson defended the first couple of kicks to the man, saying he had reviewed the footage and “when the initial two kicks are given, it’s about trying to keep that person on the ground and remove the threat to both the police and members of the public”.
Paterson said there was a possibility the use of a police vehicle to strike the man, although not part of police training, may eventually be deemed justifiable as officers believed the man attempted to carjack a civilian’s vehicle.
The incident occurred near the Northern Hospital, where the man had reportedly been seeking treatment. Police were called after the man broke the hospital’s glass entry doors.
Asked if the man had been let down, given he had attempted to get treatment, Paterson responded: “I think that they’re matters that Ibac will fully look into.”
“Nineteen hours in a hospital seems like an extraordinary amount of time to wait,” he said. “But that’s not a Victoria police matter. The man’s self-presented at the hospital for assistance and treatment. I am unaware as to why he wasn’t treated in a shorter period of time, but had he been it may have prevented this incident occurring.”
He added the man was likely to be charged “at an appropriate time”. While he is no longer in a coma, the 32-year-old remains in a serious condition and in hospital, police say.
The man’s brother told Channel Nine on Tuesday night he was now awake but had no recollection of the incident.
“He was pretty sore from what happened, he can’t really move his neck much,” he said.
Nine reported that the family was considering legal action against police.
It is the latest in a string of controversial incidents to plague Victoria police, including a recent alleged “violent assault” of an Indigenous man who was left with a broken arm after police spear-tackled him off his bike as he rode to work.
Paterson, however, said there had been “a really sharp increase in recent weeks in the use of force against Victorian police members” by members of the public. In the past week, there had been three different attempts by members of the public to grab the firearm of a police officer, and there had been incidents where police had been confronted with weapons such as knives, he said.
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