A YOUNG Aboriginal man at the centre of a police brutality scandal was "at the wrong place at the wrong time" the night he ended up facedown in the Ballina watch-house, the state's corruption watchdog has heard.
Video of 23-year-old Corey Matthew Barker being wrestled by four police officers went viral last year after a Ballina magistrate threw the majority of charges being brought against him out of court.
Among other things, Barker was accused of seriously assaulting an officer and throwing a "missile" at police.
He was convicted of providing a false name to officers but claimed police made up the rest because they were worried he may have filmed footage of a controversial brawl between officers and a group of young people at a local shopping centre earlier in the evening.
While witness and police accounts of the night in question varied drastically, Magistrate Heilpern found cause to refer the case to the Police Integrity Commission.
Yesterday, witness Emma Jane Crook told the hearing, currently being held at Sydney's PIC headquarters, she and her boyfriend Jay Healey were engaged in a heated argument when they attracted police attention on the night of January 14, 2011.
She said the pair, who had been drinking since midday and had visited three local pubs, were fighting near the Tamar Village Shopping Centre when two officers approached them.
At some point, Mr Healy turned around and told the officers to "f*** off" and was arrested.
Ms Crook denied jumping on one of the officer's backs but said she had attempted to pull police off her boyfriend because he was complaining his back was being hurt.
Her recollection of her trip to the watchhouse was hazy, she admitted, because she was "moderately to well" intoxicated and all she could think about was washing her eyes, which were burning after being hit with capsicum spray.
She was adamant, however, that a female officer had picked her up and dropped her on the ground.
A series of photographs showing bruising and grazes on Ms Crook's legs, arms and back were shown to the court.
Asked whether she would accept the officers had originally approached her because they had seen a man towering over and intimidating her and wanted to protect her, Ms Crook replied "yes".
Accounts from witnesses, who were at the scene when Ms Crook and her partner were arrested, differed drastically but most agreed that at some point, Barker and another of his friends, Conrad Nolan, had attempted to intervene and ended up in trouble themselves.
Most of the witnesses admitted to drinking alcohol in the hours before the drama unfolded.
Lennox Head resident Sarah Kemp told the hearing she was sober when she and her friends heard screaming on their way to the Rouse Hotel.
She said the group had found themselves "in the wrong place, at the wrong time" but felt they had to do something or Ms Crook and her partner were "going to hurt each other".
She admitted to hearing Ms Crook call one of the officers a "slut" and seeing her kicking and screaming but didn't believe the behaviour warranted the police reaction.
She claimed she had witnessed Ms Crooks head being "slammed" into the gutter and Barker and Mr Nolan being held down "really violently".
She also claimed to have heard one of the boys questioning why they were under arrest and another replying "it's because we're black".
The only evidence relating directly to the watchhouse scuffle between Barker and the four police officers was given by Ms Crook who said she saw him on the floor while she was waiting in the "finger-printing" room.
She described hearing a "big bang" before she saw Barker on the ground with blood coming from his head but that she "quickly" shut the door because she was scared.
Barker, his mother and two police officers are expected to take the stand on Tuesday.
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