Emotions high as inquest into death in custody of Ashley Washington concludes

The family of a 31-year-old man who died during a police arrest in south-west Queensland has described him as a lost but “beautiful soul”.

Coroner Terry Ryan retired today to consider his findings after a three-day inquest into the death of Kamilaroi man Ashley Charles Washington at Toowoomba.

Mr Washington suffered a cardiac arrest and died on December 13, 2020, after being tasered twice and restrained during a confrontation with police and then sedated by ambulance officers.

During the incident, Mr Washington stabbed a Queensland police officer and his police dog with scissors.

A statement read by lawyer Angela Taylor on behalf of the family detailed Mr Washington’s “close-knit” relationship with his mother, stepfather, brothers and sister.

It explained that he was a proud Kamilaroi man who was “very spiritual”, but lost his way after a relationship breakdown.

A suburban street slick with rain beneath a cloudy sky.

Ashley Washington was arrested in Mount Lofty in December 2020 following a break-and-enter.(ABC News: Lucy Robinson)

Speaking outside the Toowoomba Court House, Mr Washington’s sister Tyla Henningsen said the proceedings, which included watching footage of the police response, had left her sad and angry.

“He was a beautiful soul,” she said.

“He was very loved, like just the sweetest person you could ever meet … and just kind-hearted.

“I just want justice for my brother.

Two young women speak to an older woman in a suit outside a court building.

Ashley Washington’s sister and cousin sobbed while body camera footage of his arrest was shown to the inquest on August 29, 2023.(ABC Southern Qld: Laura Cocks)

Cause of death ‘undetermined’

On the final day the inquest heard from pathologist Nathan Milne, who conducted the autopsy on Mr Washington.

Dr Milne told the court that Mr Washington’s cause of death was “undetermined” due to multiple contributing factors including underlying heart disease, physical and psychological stress at the time of his arrest, and drug use — methylamphetamine found in his system.

During closing submissions, counsel assisting the coroner Sarah Lio-Willie said it was accepted that Mr Washington had a range of vulnerabilities that contributed to the stress on his heart.

Ms Lio-Willie also submitted that the actions of Senior Constable Jamie Williams, the dog squad officer who tasered Mr Washington, were appropriate and that no adverse findings should be made.

She said it was open to the coroner to make adverse findings regarding “suboptimal” care provided by paramedics to Mr Washington.

Lawyers representing the Queensland Ambulance Service submitted this was ultimately a “systemic” rather than individual failure and that new guidelines for administering sedatives had since been introduced.

The coroner’s findings will be delivered at a later date.


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