Criminal charges possible for officer involved in death of Indigenous teen, Jai Wright
by GRACE JOHNSON
The NSW State Coroner has suspended the inquest into the death of Dunghutti teenager Jai Wright and has referred the matter to the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP), meaning an officer involved in the crash could receive criminal charges.
On February 19, 2022, the teenager collided with Sergeant Benedict Bryant’s unmarked police car while he was riding a track bike in Sydney’s inner west. He suffered critical head injuries and died the next day in hospital.
NSW Police said the bike had been stolen, along with a black Mercedes and white BMW, about 7am on the day of the collision. At 7:26am, police spotted the vehicles in Newtown and noted they were similar to those reported as stolen.
Officers were reportedly told not to pursue, but CCTV and in-car video footage showed Sgt Bryant swinging the undercover car in front of the bike. The bike hit a bollard, which acted as a ramp in propelling Jai into the air. He then collided with the front passenger seat of the police car, throwing him several metres into the intersection.
Lachlan Wright and Kylie Aloua, Jai’s parents, released a statement, saying they are seeking the truth about the circumstances that led to their son’s death.
“Almost 2 years ago, we received a call, one of the calls that as a parent you never want to receive, about Jai having an accident. We rushed straight to the hospital and we were by our son’s side as he passed away,” they said.
“Ever since then, we have been searching for the truth. We need to know the truth so that we can live our lives and move forward.”
“This referral has given us a lot of hope, we have faith that we will get justice for Jai.
“I would just ask all our family and friends to let this process play out because negative comments could hurt future legal proceedings, and believe that at the end we will get our truth and get our justice.”
To mark the opening of the inquest on Monday, a large group gathered at the Coroner’s State Court in Lidcombe to express their support.
Karly Warner, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited said: “The Aboriginal Legal Service is proud to stand alongside Jai Wright’s family and community. We share their immense grief and determination to ensure what happened to Jai never happens again.”
“Jai is one of at least 558 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have died in custody and police operations in a little over 30 years since the Royal Commission. Scrutiny and accountability are essential in stopping this national shame.”