Two Police Shootings in Two Weeks

Two young men were shot dead by police in the two weeks leading into Christmas. Both were killed in the outer suburbs – Drewvale in South Brisbane and St Mary’s in Western Sydney – and both in circumstances suggesting excessive force.

The first was Raghe Mohamed Abdi, an ethnically Somalian man. Abdi was on bail in the aftermath of his arrest in 2019, when he was prevented from travelling to Somalia “on suspicion of an attempted foreign incursion.” The term references laws developed to prevent Australians from going to fight in the Syrian civil war.

These charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence, but Abdi spent a year in jail for charges such as refusing to give police the passcode to his mobile phone. He was bailed in September 2020 and forced to wear an ankle bracelet tracking device.

The last time his father saw Abdi alive, he told the ABC, Abdi stormed out of his house, saying that “feeling so isolated and limited” because his bail conditions impeded him from obtaining work, and he was “always feeling harassed” by police.

Police allege Abdi, who was confronted and shot by police while walking along Logan Motorway, was carrying a knife and threatened police.

The second young man was Bradley Balzan of St Mary’s. The 20 year-old Balzan was approached by four plain-clothed officers in an unmarked car after “acting suspiciously,” and he fled the scene.

St Mary’s, NSW is in the 9th percentile for relative social advantage in Australia.

According to his father, Balzan had been mugged a few weeks before, and so would understandably have been wary of the plain-clothed officers.

The man was pursued into the backyard of his home, where police say he reached for the holstered gun of one of the officers. A tussle over the gun ensued in which a shot was fired, they say, following which Balzan was shot dead by another officer. It is not clear if the men identified themselves as police officers.  

“Bradley has no criminal record — I think it was police brutality because everything that happened to him was terrifying,” his grandmother Nola Balzan told the ABC in an interview on Christmas Day.

Both deaths will soon be investigated, Balzan’s internally by NSW Police Ethical Standards and Abdi’s death by the Queensland Coroner.