Police were “dumbfounded” a specialist unit trained in handling violent armed offenders refused to intercept the Bourke Street driver hours before his CBD killing spree.
Former policeman Frank Caridi, a sergeant at South Melbourne Police Station, has told an inquest that James Gargasoulas’ phone was pinged at a location around St Kilda after almost murdering his brother in the early hours of January 20, 2017.
Mr Caridi said he knew the offender’s history of driving off from police and contacted the critical incident response team (CIRT), which has tactical training and equipment beyond ordinary officers.
He wanted them to provide their plain van to block Gargasoulas in and arrest him.
“It’d be a simple process of blocking him in with a van. Once he realised he was immobile, he’d give himself up,” Mr Caridi told the inquest today.
But the team’s Acting Sergeant Kalev Jones refused.
“They said we don’t do mobile intercepts. If we blocked him in, they’d come and do the arrest but he wouldn’t entertain the idea,” Mr Caridi said.
I said if you’re not happy with the plan, at least come to the scene … he said no.
“The impression I got was he wasn’t interested. He was just looking for excuses not to come out.”
Mr Caridi said he came up with the plain van arrest plan because using marked police cars would only provoke Gargasoulas and could’ve led to an armed confrontation with police.
“He would’ve used it as a challenge to try and get past,” he said.
“As soon as he’s mobile and moving, he’s dangerous. I don’t think it’d be out of his ability to ram cars,” Mr Caridi said.
“The appropriate course of action for an armed offender who just tried to murder someone is to call the critical response team.
“(They) are trained in dealing with armed offenders.
“They would’ve been the appropriate body to effect the arrest.”
Mr Caridi said by 4.30am, knowing CIRT refused to attend, he believed he was out of options.
“I wasn’t going to initiate a dynamic confrontation with this person,” he said.
He said police were “dumbfounded” at CIRT’s refusal.
Hours later, on the afternoon of January 20, Gargasoulas drove into the CBD and rammed pedestrians, killing six.
The inquest continues.