The following is an excerpt from a story penned by The Age’s National Affairs Editor, Tony Wright yesterday in relation to the shooting death of Numan Haider in southeast Melbourne on Tuesday night.
“The bare facts of Haider's last minutes are known; the knife produced after the boy shook hands with the two policemen only metres from the suburb's 24-hour police station, the slashing and the stabbing, the bullet that ended his sudden rampage.”
Mr Wright’s reporting, along with many of his contemporaries in the mainstream press, is speculative at best.
The truth is ‘the bare facts’ of the struggle between two Victorian Police officers and Mr Haider are simply not known at all. One witness is dead and the other two haven’t yet spoken publicly.
To get to the bottom of these sorts of incidents, incidents that have far reaching social ramifications, we the taxpayers employ investigators to apply a range of studied sciences to answer questions of interest to the legal system.
What we do not employ our police services to do is publicly preempt their own examination of shooting deaths like that of Mr Haider.
Anyone with a passing knowledge of Aboriginal affairs, for example, will know that when police kill someone, the convention of ‘no comment – the matter is under investigation’ goes swiftly out the window.
Just hours after the shooting, on Tuesday morning, Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay went public with some vague background on Mr Haider, and what lead to the shooting.
It was a panicked bid to satisfy a rabid Melbourne press, but it was also seemingly designed to project a less than favorable image of Mr Haider.
"There's certainly information that he was present at the shopping centre in the last week or so with the flag that appeared to be an ISIS [Islamic State] flag,” Lay said.
“…The last week or so…” Strange wording. Assuming the incident was relevant and worth mentioning to journalists as background surely a date was recorded?
“…That appeared to be an ISIS flag.” Again, strange language.
If this was an incident that prompted law enforcement to monitor more closely and ultimately call a meeting with Mr Haider, as they’ve claimed, surely there’s some sort of confirmation that he was in fact brandishing the symbol of a terror organisation and not simply a black flag with Arabic script scrawled across it?
What’s very probable was that Mr Haider was holding the same flag in a Dandenong shopping centre as the one seen in the Facebook image being used over and over by mainstream media.
That flag has nothing to do with ISIS at all. It’s called the Shahadah, or profession of faith. It’s the first pillar of Islam and a common creed recited by Muslims. It literally means ‘There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.’
To be fair, The Age did in fact make this same observation.
But Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius then confused things further saying the man had been asked to come to the police station to discuss behavior "which had been causing some concern".
"I want to make it very clear that the individual concerned who has died tonight was invited and did come of his own free will to the police station," he said.
It begs the question then – why invite a so called ‘terror suspect’ who’s behaviour was a known “concern” to police – to an ‘amicable’ meeting in a carpark?
"Our members had no inkling this individual posed a threat to them and as far as we were concerned it was going to be an amicable discussion about that individual's behaviour,” Cornelius continued.
Another strange comment. “No inkling this individual posed a threat…” well why was Mr Haider being ‘closely monitored’ on the terror watch list?
If we are to believe the version of events presented by Victoria Police, then this next comment does make some sense however.
"It's absolutely clear to us our members had no choice but to act in the way that they did,” he said.
And it’s at this tragic juncture where one has to have some understanding of the complexities frontline police face each day.
Tough calls do need to be made.
One of the injured officers is from the Australian Federal Police and the other is a Victoria Police member.
Police say both officers required surgery but were in a stable condition.
It’s a sad affair all round, but the unfounded and speculative links police have made between Mr Haider and ISIS are troubling, and serve to only heighten media driven hysteria around homegrown terror threats and ‘random’ beheadings on the street.
It’s obvious Mr Haider was harbouring violent intentions and may well have had mental health issues, but as they often do in these situations, its fair to say Police have put the horse before the cart in managing the flow of information to mainstream media.
The day following Mr Haider’s death, Graith Krayem of the Islamic Council of Victoria quite rightly expressed his frustration and hit the nail on the head.
"I heard and I saw the press conference with the police last night and I'm a little disappointed. I think it was a little too pre-emptive. The police have come out very clearly and almost have said it's all the young man's fault," he told 3AW.
Time may well unearth Mr Haider as the ‘teenage jihadist’ hell bent on a ‘stabbing rampage,’ as the mainstream media are reporting him to be.
But the panicked rush from authorities, the Prime Minister and the mainstream media to so before ‘the bare facts’ are apparent is wrong.
It serves only to distance further a section of our society already teetering on the edge.
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