VicPD officer who fatally shot woman Christmas Day 2019 testifies at misconduct hearing

VicPD officer who fatally shot woman Christmas Day 2019 testifies at misconduct hearing

The Victoria Police officer who pulled the trigger of an ARWEN less-lethal gun, killing a woman Christmas Day in 2019, testified for the first time Thursday at his misconduct hearing.

Sgt. Ron Kirkwood said the situation was “spiraling out of control” when it became clear a fire had started in the room where a woman was with a knife, suffering a meth-induced psychosis. Forty-three-year-old Lisa Rauch was killed after Kirkwood deployed three rounds of an ARWEN gun.

He says the night is burnt into his memory, with deep grief.

“The impact of this has been immediate, profound and long lasting for me,” he testified Thursday. “It has been horrible. This is in no way how I wanted this to be resolved.”

Kirkwood is facing two allegations of misconduct related to Rauch’s death: Use of force and neglect of duty in relation to a lack of documentation.

“I hope he’s tormented by it. We are,” said Audrey Rauch, Lisa’s mom, through tears.


In his testimony, Kirkwood described a chaotic scene. He says Rauch was in a meth-induced psychosis, and was threatening people with a knife, destroying things and yelling in an apartment that was on fire.

Kirkwood testified that he spotted Rauch in the room but his visibility was limited because of swirling smoke. He says he spotted Rauch on the right side of the room, before moving “boldly” to the centre of the room about 4.5 metres (15 feet) away from his team.

“I can’t see her head, but I see what I believe to be her upper torso. I believe she’s behind the couch and she’s standing facing us,” said Kirkwood.

“You didn’t see her hands indicating surrender?” asked Kirkwood’s council, Kevin Woodall.

“No I did not. I wish I did,” responded Kirkwood.

Kirkwood says he chose to shoot the ARWEN, known to be a “less lethal” option than a regular gun, at what he thought was Rauch’s stomach. He says he knew that would be a high-risk deployment, but given the fire he says was continuing to burn, and the risk it posed to the firefighters, his colleagues, and other building residents, he says the use of it was valid.

“This situation was at a point where it was almost nearly out of control. I knew we needed to incapacitate Ms. Rauch quickly and immediately so this situation didn’t further deteriorate,” said Kirkwood.

Three shots fired

After firing once, Kirkwood says he didn’t see any posture change or callout of pain from Rauch. He came to the assumption she was pain impervious due to the drugs she was on, testifying he’d seen it a few times before.

He quickly deployed a second ARWEN round to the same area. Again he saw no change, and decided to change tactics. The third ARWEN he deployed was aimed at what he thought was her chest. He testified that a colleague then yelled, “Watch her head!” Previously, that same colleague testified he said, “That’s her head!”

After the incident, Kirkwood says multiple senior Victoria Police officers, including the Victoria Police Union President, told Kirkwood not to provide notes, because he may face a criminal investigation.

Police officers are legally compelled to make notes.

Kirkwood testified he trusted his superiors in “good faith,” saying he is the victim of an uncertain policy.

“I don’t understand how this is being taught to the department, but it’s not in practice, that’s far beyond my pay grade,” said Kirkwood.

Victoria Police say as a result of past Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) investigations into this incident, the department has made “changes to its note-taking policy and created clear guidance on reporting requirements in use of force incidents.”

Frustrations over lengthy review

Both Kirkwood and Rauch’s family expressed frustration over the almost five year process to get to this public hearing.

“For God’s sake there’s got to be a better way to get a police officer’s story to the public,” said Kirkwood, referring to OPCC’s clearing him in 2020 of any wrongdoing.

Rauch’s family called for the public hearing, something Audrey says wouldn’t have happened if they’d had better communication.

“It’s absolutely appalling that nobody has contacted us,” said Audrey. “[Victoria Police] never told us anything.”

When asked what would have changed if Victoria Police had reached out, Audrey said it would have created trust, instead of the suspicion that came with their silence.

“It probably would have made me think that nobody was trying to cover anything up,” said Rauch’s mother. “The first thing that I thought was, somebody is trying to cover something up because they are not telling us anything! Why wouldn’t they tell us? If they’ve got nothing to hide, why not tell us?”

Audrey says if Victoria Police ever have to deal with the family of someone killed by one of their officers in the future, they should simply “tell them the truth.” She also says the family received inaccurate reports from the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), which first told her that Lisa was running at police with a knife when police shot her.

She says any updates from the OPCC were not meaningful, and the whole process left the family with many questions and created a sense of distrust.

The OPCC says new legislation is coming that will allow public hearings to be called earlier in the OPCC process.

Kirkwood’s public hearing continues until mid-May, where the adjudicator can make recommendations about police policies.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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