Steven Lee Nixon-McKellar died shortly after being arrested outside a relative’s house in Toowoomba
An inquest into the death of a young Indigenous man has been shown body-worn video of Queensland officers putting him in a “chokehold” that is banned in other states.
Steven Lee Nixon-McKellar, 27, died shortly after having pressure applied to his neck while a senior constable arrested him outside a relative’s house in Toowoomba on 7 October 2021.
His family requested he be referred to as Steven during the coroner’s court hearings, which started in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, on Monday.
His family and friends were warned by the state coroner Terry Ryan that the footage could be upsetting but many chose to stay.
“I have to see what they done to my grandson, they have got to be stopped,” a woman in the public gallery said.
The footage shown was from an officer who arrived as backup for two officers who responded to an anonymous phone call about a grey Subaru SUV with another vehicle’s number plate parked outside a house in Toowoomba.
One of the first two officers yells “choke the cunt, choke him out” in a struggle with Steven before the chokehold is applied.
Steven falls rapidly to the ground under the force of the hold, officially known as a lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR) and another officer yells for it to stop as “he’s asleep”.
Steven was later unable to be resuscitated by paramedics as his throat was obstructed by vomit.
Const Brandon Smart, one of the first two officers to arrive at the scene, was the first to give evidence on Monday.
Smart, who was sworn in as an officer in 2018, said he approached the driver’s side of the vehicle and yelled for its occupants to get out as he thought the SUV would ram their police van.
Sen Const Simon Giuliano then struggled with Steven, and Smart went to assist.
“I struck him in the quad with my baton to achieve compliance and it was not effective so I wrapped the baton around in a bear hug and as he was larger than me it was not effective,” Smart said.
Under cross-examination by a legal representative for the Nixon-McKellar family, Smart denied his bear hug had prevented Steven from complying with directions to get on the ground.
Smart also denied his actions in approaching the car were impudent or stupid given his concerns about being rammed, but he did concede that he did not explain himself or tell Steven or anyone else in the SUV they were under arrest before smashing the window.
About 40 people gathered outside the courthouse before the start of proceedings for a Black Lives Matter rally to mark 551 Indigenous deaths that organisers say have occurred in custody since a royal commission made its recommendations in 1991.
A banner featuring Steven’s face and a call to “Stop Black deaths in custody” was raised in front of the court.
Flowers and candles were arranged on the footpath to spell out the number 551.