The family and friends of Mr Rich ahead of the Coronial Inquest. (Supplied: NSW Aboriginal Legal Service)
The family of a Wiradjuri man who died in police custody have delivered emotional impact statements on the final days of a two-week coronial inquest.
A warning to readers this story contains the name and image of a person who has died.
On the 29th of December 2021, Brandon Rich died after losing consciousness during an interaction with NSW police.
He was just 29-years-old.
Now a week before his 31st birthday, his mother, grandmother, sister, and eight-year-old son have had to deliver family impact statements at the Dubbo Courthouse in NSW.
While the exact cause of his death is still uncertain, a coronial inquest, which began on November 20, has been examining the circumstances leading up to his passing, including his altercation with police and their use of capsicum spray and restraints.
Last week, the officers who attended Mr Rich’s home, where he lived with his grandmother and eight-year-old son, admitted to not knowing it’s a requirement of NSW Police to wear body worn cameras at all times.
Corina Rich, who had to endure police recount the events surrounding her son’s death over and over while they were on the stand, has also told NIRS News that police did not warn anyone in the house before deploying capsicum spray on her son.
She said that despite the officers involved openly admitting to not following their own policies and procedures but still claim there was nothing they could have done differently during Brandon’s arrest.
“When each police officer was on stand they all stated they had not correctly followed their policies and procedures, and have not been trained in certain updated policies and procedures … and some just refused to wear body worn cameras and tasers.
“Police knew Brandon’s Nan was in the house and didn’t consider or ask if there was anyone else in the house before they deployed OC spray or even give pre-warning that there was going to OC spray deployed.”
Ms Rich also criticised state police for potentially traumatising Brandon’s young son shortly after he died.
“I don’t believe it’s right that young children are questioned days or even weeks after losing their loved one, just like Brandon’s son.
“There was no need for that to happen. He was not there, and the impact alone that it could have on the child after losing their parent.”
She also told NIRS News about the difficulty of helping her grandson write his own statement to be read at Court.
“Brandon’s death has broken our family. My grandson took it very hard. He asks why Daddy had to die and I don’t know how to answer it, because I also ask myself that question. Why did my son have to die? He shouldn’t have. He should still be here.”
In her own statement, Corina Rich recalled the day her life changed when she received a phone call from her Mum informing her that police were doing CPR on her son.
“I really could not comprehend how bad it was; it just did not sink in then.
I called Mum back again to ask what was going on and asked her to hand the phone to a police officer. They said they are doing CPR on Brandon and that is all we can discuss at this time. Then the phone hung up.
“I sat on my bed waiting and waiting. No word from anyone, so I decided to call the hospital. Finally a nurse answered the phone. She said “I am sorry, we did all we could, he has passed away”.
“That’s how I found out about my son’s death.”
She spoke of her disappointment that the police involved offered no condolences during the two-week inquest and the hardship of knowing they’d had a role in his death.
Remembered as a loving, caring family man with a cheeky sense of humour, Ms Rich hopes to honour Brandon through justice and accountability
“I will always love my only son. He showed me what the word ‘love’ means.
“My family is one in over 500 Aboriginal families to have lost a loved one in a death in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
“I hope that recommendations from this inquest will lead to accountability, justice and changes to the system which allowed this to happen. I believe there are many lessons that can be learned from this inquest.
“I hope those lessons are learned and changes are made. That would be the best thing for our mob.
“Aboriginal deaths in custody must end.”
Ms Rich and her family were represented by the NSW Aboriginal Legal Service during the inquest.