Every Police Shooting, Nothing Happens, Regardless: Darren Gilbert on the Killing of His Son

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Justice for Luke

“In any police shooting, number one, it is looked at civilly. Not criminally, straight off the bat,” says Darren Gilbert in the interview below regarding the shooting of his son, Luke, by two Queensland Police Service officers at Airlie Beach on 1 October 2022.

And as far as he’s concerned, “The way it is orchestrated, is… nothing ever happens to the police, regardless of what happened or what they did.”

Gilbert appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 Report on 4 August last year, to speak about the police shooting of his son, Luke Gilbert. And he’s notably shaken in the report, as he is about to travel to Queensland to attend the coronial inquest into the killing, and he’s grabbling with a scenario that isn’t true.

According to the police reports prior to the inquest, 24-year-old Luke Gilbert bumped into a police officer just after midnight on 1 October, and then he pulled a knife on the two officers present on Shute Harbour Road. And this ended with officers shooting the young man dead, firing four shots.

Just days later, however, before the coroner in Queensland, evidence came out that told a very different story. Luke had brushed past an officer and apologised. That officer was okay with it. Yet, his partner took issue and made provocative statements that eventually made Luke stop.

Justice for Luke

The findings of the inquest are not yet public, but Luke’s father is speaking out, as he considers the coronial inquiry turned into a witch hunt against his son, while the two police officers who shot five bullets at him were given little scrutiny.

Gilbert refers to a 1960s book Police Killings in Australia. Authored by Richard Harding, it details “a pattern of systemic abuse of rules relating to the deaths caused in arrests”. And so ingrained are these measures, that he considered the process had been shaped by those administering the law.

“The practices he documented were of very long standing”, writes Griffith University Professor Mark Finnane, in a recent review of Hardy’s work. “If anything, police accountability for their actions had deteriorated in the twentieth century.”

Finnane outlines that the legal impediments to a conviction for a police killing were strengthened last century, via the unionisation of Australian policing, which meant that officers that kill in the line of duty are afforded enormous resources in blocking a criminal investigation ever eventuating.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to Darren Gilbert about what actually occurred on the night his son was shot dead by the Queensland Police Service, as well as the stark anomalies involved in the case, especially the revelations of Luke’s girlfriend that became apparent at the time of the inquest.

Darren Gilbert and his son, Luke Gilbert
Darren Gilbert and his son, Luke Gilbert

Firstly, Darren, your son Luke Gilbert was shot multiple times by two Queensland police officers in the resort town of Airlie Beach on the Whitsundays in the first minutes of 1 October 2022. He was only 24 at the time.

How would you describe what happened to your son just after midnight that morning? How would you say officers reacted at the time?

We think a crime has been committed, because Luke was doing nothing wrong. Our barrister said they had no right to stop him in the first place and he complied with what they said.

He brushed past David Murray. Luke apologised for that. Murray said, “No worries.” Luke continued on. Then Liam Forster, the one who had been a cop for about two years – the other had been for about 13 years – he said, “Good on you, mate.”

Luke just carried on walking. And because he carried on walking and didn’t say anything, he then said, “See you later, tough guy.” And that is when Luke turned around as if to say, “What do you mean?”

That is when Forster said, “What have you got there?” And Luke who always carried a penknife as part of his work gear, or when he went camping, and he was doing both, working and then camping that night, he had the knife shoved down the front of his pants.

So, when the police said, “What have you got there.” He showed them, put it to his side and stood still.

Then they backed away, pulled guns on him and started shouting, “Drop the Knife.”

Our barrister has pointed out at that point it was unlawful, because Luke with complying with what they were asking. And 18 seconds later, they killed him.

Queensland police constable Liam Forster shot four bullets at your son, and senior constable David Murray shot one. Three shots hit Luke, as he stood on Shute Harbour Road, as officers bungled the delivery of first aid.

Your family has pointed out that the inquest, which took place in August, “focused not on the actions of the police but was a character assassination of our young boy”.

What came out in the inquest?

We didn’t find out until that time that Forster twice provoked Luke and started this whole thing. We didn’t find out until that time that Luke was holding the knife in his hand because he was asked, “What have you got there?”

The police made a big thing about how easy it is to open that knife. You can buy that type of knife at camping stores, that kind of thing. It is a tool. But nobody said anything about that at the inquest.

So, can I ask if you weren’t aware that one officer had twice called on Luke which caused him to stop, and then asked him to produce the knife, what was the story prior to the inquest?

That Luke approached police with a knife.

So, that police said to pull it out and he held it beside him were some of the aspects of the incident that came out during the inquest?

Well, they didn’t tell him to pull it out. They said, “What have you got there?” Luke was three times the legal limit. So, they said, “What have you got there?”, and he reached down the front of his pants and pulled out the knife.

And then he put it to his side and stood perfectly still, and then they both pulled their guns and were just shouting orders at him.

So, how would you say they tried to character assassinate your son during the inquest?

What came out of the inquest was everything was focused on investigating Luke and not them.

Things like, they kept Luke’s phone and got data off it, yet they didn’t do that to the police – he is the victim. They killed him.

They had a video conference on 14 April 2023, which was six months after, because on 17 April, they were going to have the pre-inquest conference.

At that video conference, I said, “Can we have Luke’s phone back. It has been six months. You promised you’d send it, and you didn’t. We’ve not even got his clothes.” – that kind of thing.

I said, “Why are you looking into Luke’s phone?” They said, “Intent.” I said, “Intent to what? He didn’t do anything wrong. He wasn’t even being arrested when they killed him.”

We then said, “Well, are you looking into the police’s phones? They killed him.” And she just said, “I disagree we need to do that.”

Can you talk on the fact that your son wasn’t being arrested at the time he was shot by police, and nor was he suspected of any crime?

They asked, “Up to the time you asked him what he had, had Luke committed any crime?” And they both said, “No.”

Luke was a tourist in Airlie Beach. He wasn’t even supposed to be there that day. His girlfriend rang him, when he was on his way to work at six in the morning, and said, “I’ve got car trouble.” She worked at Airlie Beach.

He said, “Right, I’m blowing work. I am coming to help you.” He shouldn’t have even been there that day. So, he was a tourist having a drink, and obviously, intoxicated like thousands of other people at Airlie Beach, when they basically picked on him.

For some reason, Liam Forster picked on Luke. He even admitted at the trial that when Luke walked past Murray – he was only two metres away from Murray and Luke – out of the corner of his eye he’d seen that he was close to him, he said. So, he didn’t even see it.

Even so, Murray’s the one he brushed against. Luke apologised. Murray said, “No worries, mate.”

Luke was crossing the road when he turned around. Like I say, Forster didn’t just say it once, like, “Good on you, mate”: backhanded comment, and Luke just kept on walking.

It wasn’t until he said, “See you later, tough guy,” that Luke then turned around. Now, Luke didn’t pull a knife out, like they tried to say. They asked him, “What have you got there?” It was down the front of his pants.

Luke always carried a penknife. That was part of his kit. It wasn’t like he was part of any gang, or anything like that. But that is the way police portray it.

And even more than that, it was an inquest, so two days were on the police and everybody else. Luke had no witnesses for him, it was just all for police. The coroner got in a psychiatrist.

Out of it all, they are trying to say suicide by cop: that Luke wanted to be killed.

If you are walking across the road, then why would you apologise? You wouldn’t. Then he said a backhanded question to Luke, and Luke carried on. Then he said, “See you later, tough guy”, and Luke turned around.

They’re trying to say that is suicide by cop.

The only person for Luke that was in the witness list at the pre-inquest conference was Luke’s girlfriend.

By the time we got to the inquest, she was omitted. She was taken off the list. We didn’t know about it until we went to the coroner’s office in Cairns. And we live in Perth.

The whole point to the 14 April video conference, three days before the pre-conference, counsel assisting said, the whole point was to run through what we were going to do and say at the pre-inquest conference because we don’t want any surprises for you. That was on the Friday.

On the Tuesday, when it comes to pre-inquest, one of the first things they brought out was suicide by cop. That was a huge surprise.

Now we need to know what happened from the Friday, the meeting was supposed to fill us in – no surprises. What happened since Friday to the Tuesday? Where did that come from?

We are trying to get the backstory of what happened. We have proof the coroner’s court is – let’s just say “bias”.

As mentioned before, the officers were slow to provide first aid. What happened after the shooting?

When Luke was shot, he immediately fell to the ground and lay unresponsive, when Murray ran over still with his gun pointed at him and Forster said, “I have you covered with his gun pointed at Luke.

Murray then turned him over and handcuffed his arms behind his back and searched his pockets.

Regarding CPR, it wasn’t even attempted until seven minutes later, and it was so poor, it was practically nonexistent.

This is not when Luke died, he was pronounced deceased later by paramedics.

At one point a female police officer said, “You can take the cuffs off he is dead,” before paramedics got there.

There is more, but we are gagged on saying anything else, as we are bound by the Coroners Act 2003.

So, until we find a pro bono lawyer down the line, we can’t say anything else until we find out exactly what more we can say.

Luke’s girlfriend made some revelations about Forster around the time of the inquest. He’s the officer who fired at least two of the bullets that penetrated your son.

What does this new evidence consist of, and why do you consider it warrants further action?

It’s a sworn statement. What happened was just before we went out to the inquest, we heard that Luke’s girlfriend had a relationship with Forster through Tinder – spoke for months and met him.

I didn’t believe it. No way. We had the inquest to deal with. We had just watched the ABC TV program that came out that night about Luke and police shootings and how they have shot more people in that state than all other states combined in a 12-month period.

We later had this confirmed. So, she has made a statement that about fourteen to sixteen months before, she had an online relationship through Tinder talking to this Forster. He’s the one who picked on Luke and fired the four bullets.

They were talking and then they met in Townsville one night. She was in a pub with him and basically, he creeped her out.

He was talking about his job, and what he did to villains, and this, that and the other, and basically, she felt uneasy and blanked him after that. She rejected him.

So, we found this out. But then she also goes into the morning Luke was killed and Luke got there and met her at Airlie Beach.

She and Luke are having breakfast, she looks up and Forster’s there at a table, obviously looking at her.

Now, she didn’t say anything to Luke, because she thought it didn’t mean anything. But still, this is the morning before Luke was killed. Luke was killed just on midnight that day.

So, this all came out at the time of the inquest?

Yeah. We told our barrister at the inquest. We actually said we don’t know if this is true or not, it is just too out there for us. But we have since confirmed this did happen.

And they said, “Right. Get her to make a statement.” Which she did. She sent it in. Then they said, “Right, what we need to do the interview now, the video conference call.” And they made a statement. Then they asked her to go to a JP to do a signed statement, which she did.

So, the corner is aware of all this. But they basically said, it is irrelevant.

We then found out when we got the full brief of evidence after the inquest, that they’d comprised a timeline of the full day that Luke was at that precinct at Airlie Beach.

It accounts for every minute of it: where he went. They even got him going into the bottle shop, coming out of the bottle shop, and then the video inside the bottle shop. That kind of thing.

So, they accounted for everything. But we found the missing 30 minutes in the timeline. In the written timeline and the video timeline. It was just missing with no explanation of where he had been.

We later found out that it is the 30 minutes that Luke and his girlfriend were in the cafe where Forster was. It stinks to high heaven.

We can’t prove anything with that, but it stinks to high heaven.

We have got video of everywhere he went that day, except 30 minutes with no written explanation or video explanation of where they’ve been. And then we find out that was when they were in the cafe with Forster in it.

We then said, “Where is the video for all of this. You must have the video. You’ve got it from everywhere else.” And after months of waiting and all, we got the video.

They sent us about four different videos. So, you see Luke and Liz walking into the cafe and leaving the cafe, 1080p quality. But the one in the cafe, where we’d be able to say, “there’s Forster there”, is unwatchable.

Again, can’t prove this at the moment. But does it stink? Of course, it does.

Like I say, there are lots of things we can’t tell you under the Coroners Act. They are already trying to get us arrested.

So, in your understanding, why is justice being denied to your son, Luke?

In any police shooting, number one, it is looked at civilly. Not criminally, straight off the bat. And the way it is orchestrated, is where in every police shooting, nothing ever happens to the police, regardless of what happened or what they did.

In Luke’s case, they started this whole thing. Again, they tried it once. It didn’t happen, he carried on walking. He said something more to get Luke wound up, and even then, he didn’t get Luke wound up. He said, “What have you got there?” He complied and showed them.

And then they pulled out the guns. Basically, justice is truth and accountability, but we are being denied that.

And lastly, Darren, you’ve stated that you’re unsatisfied with the way the coronial inquiry was carried out. It has yet to deliver its findings.

And there has been no criminal investigation of your son’s death, which, as you explained, a civil investigation always comes first in the case of police.

So, what do you want to see happen from here? 

For me, it’s obvious, police cannot investigate police. There was a book written in the late 60s called Police Killings in Australia. You’ve probably never heard of it.

It is an in depth look of police shootings, like I said it’s written in the 60s, and it’s pretty much word for word that’s now happening to us.

So, this is written 55 years ago, and what they’re saying is exactly what we’re encountering with the justice system, regarding coroners, police, police investigating police.

It can’t happen. It doesn’t make sense you’d have the police investigating police.

Basically, we want an investigation that is not by police. An inquiry into it. So, we’re trying to get together our own brief of evidence of all things that have been said.

We are just waiting for the findings to come out and all of that is done. We’ve contacted MPs, premiers, everything and all you get is the coronial thing. So, after that is finished.

So, a book is written academically in the 60s about police killing people when they don’t have too and no politician, not the police hierarchy, no coroner, and nor the legal system as a whole, has not done anything about it. 

To be honest they have done the opposite, If they had done something my son would be alive today, as would many other sons and daughters.

They say nothing to see here, it is irrelevant. What we have to say is, it is an absolute joke.

The Justice for Luke online petition calling for an independent investigation into his death has already garnered over 31,000 signatures. 

Justice for Luke on Facebook

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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