Nurse Gabrielle Kelly “physically confronted” prisoner Tyson Jessen as he was trying to grab Senior Constable Leesa Richardson’s firearm from its holster in the Ipswich Hospital on November 10, 2018.
The officer agreed in response to questioning at an inquest into Jessen’s death that her life was going to be put in grave danger, but she was able to gain control of the situation as his focus was drawn to the nurse.
Jessen, 28, died after being shot three times by Sen Const Richardson.
State Coroner Terry Ryan will recommend Ms Kelly receive a bravery award for her actions, he said after the police officer gave evidence at the inquest on Tuesday.
Sen Const Richardson said she didn’t hear the shackled Jessen get off the hospital bed, but within seconds of ending a phone call with another officer he grabbed her.
She and Constable Isaac Collihole were at the hospital’s cardiac ward to guard Jessen after his arrest the previous day on an extradition warrant issued by Victorian police.
The two officers didn’t know Jessen’s name or history, but he had been calm and polite.
It was common practice at the time for an officer to be left alone guarding a prisoner while the other went to get food or coffee, Sen Const Richardson told the inquest.
But in hindsight she says it was probably a “poor risk assessment”.
When the pair were told they would likely be on guard duty until their shift ended at midnight, Acting Sergeant Lisa Shilton came to the hospital while Const Collihole went to get dinner.
Const Collihole left because it was understood Acting Sgt Shilton was in the lift going to the ward.
“That was a poor decision on my behalf,” Sen Const Richardson said.
“I was complacent in my decision-making process.”
She had just ended a phone call telling Acting Sgt Shilton she was alone when Jessen grabbed her, pulling her to the ground and punched her twice in the face.
During the struggle Jessen pulled off the officer’s shirt and bra before trying to grab her gun from its holster.
Ms Kelly responded to her calls for help, but got pushed towards the hallway before Jessen tried to pull Sen Const Richardson into the room.
The officer – who described Ms Kelly as exceptionally brave – drew her firearm, shooting Jessen three times before “shimmying” her way out the room.
Four officers were sent to confirm Jessen’s identity when he was spotted the previous day at Ipswich’s World Gym because Victorian police had described him as violent.
Photos included in police documents show him as heavily tattooed and with possession of a handgun, and he was described earlier as an “imposing figure” who spent all his free time in the gym.
Jessen initially tried to flee arresting police, but was assessed by paramedics when he threw up and complained of chest pain.
Constable Isaac Collihole told the inquest his heart sank when he heard on the police radio an appeal for urgent help at the hospital.
The officer – who had moved to Ipswich just three weeks before – said there was nothing about Jessen’s demeanour that put him on alert when he arrived at the hospital.
But in hindsight Jessen may have been “buttering up” or trying to manipulate officers.
Const Collihole returned to the ward just minutes after the appeal to find Jessen shot.
The inquest heard earlier from another officer who removed handcuffs from Jessen so he could eat and receive medical treatment.
“A handcuffed prisoner makes it very difficult for hospital staff to do their job,” he added.
“It was a calculated consideration” taking into account he was still shackled and laying down with two officers at the door to the room.
Sen Const Wahlin said he continually assessed the risk Jessen posed and that included checking operating procedures while on guard duty.
He took into account Jessen’s violent background, the circumstances of his arrest, and that he was in a hospital bed and being treated for a heart condition.Jump to next article