The NSW Police have strongly rejected accusations NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione was misled the media at his Friday night press conference following the Parramatta shooting.

Yesterday’s Oz contained pointed criticisms of Scipione in the media diary column, for refusing to collaborate early witness statements and for playing down the terrorism aspect by saying the incident was being treated as a murder by homicide and was thus being investigated by the homicide squad. His failure to do things like confirm the gunman’s age or his description of the shooter as having worn trousers and a flowing top (as opposed to “robes” as an eyewitness had described it) meant he was “evasive to the point of misleading the media on basic facts,” media editor Sharri Markson wrote.

Asked to respond to this, a NSW Police spokesman said the police commissioner spoke to the media only four hours after the shooting (just before 9pm), and was “entirely accurate in everything he said”.

“Homicide was leading the investigation, Counter Terrorism Command was supporting that investigation — he had not ruled out terrorism and had an open mind on that subject. His description of the clothes was accurate and he used the word targeted to ‘indicate’ that the victim was shot in a deliberate action.”

Asked if the commissioner had been uncharacteristically vague, the spokesman responded, “absolutely not”:

“The Police Commissioner spoke to media several hours after the shooting speaking of what was known and verified at that point — hardly worthy of the accusation. When the commissioner spoke, very little was known and what little information was available required detailed examination by investigators. The identity of the gunman had not been established, let alone his motives being understood. The Commissioner stuck to the facts that were known.”

“The media conference was conducted little more than four hours after the shooting. It is incumbent on police to deal with the known and verifiable facts at that point. This media conference was no different to any other in that regard. Police have a responsibility to be factual and not speculate.

“The Commissioner did another media conference approximately 12 hours later (10.15am Saturday morning) where further information that was verified was revealed, such as the age of the gunman, that his identity was known and that the event was terrorism linked.”

The spokesman added that no media organisations had complained to him about the briefing. “And usually if people are unhappy they’re quick to tell me.” 

Peter Fray

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