Reports by the Toowoomba Chronicle revealed Harrison was highly respected in the local community.
By TONY MOBILIFONITIS
PEOPLE in the town of Warwick and others across Australia are wondering why police used a sonic torture device and strobe lights against the political adviser and constitutional historian Steven Harrison, found dead with a gunshot wound to the head.
The Queensland Police Ethical Standards Division will be investigating the shooting. Why the devices were used against Harrison, who posed no threat to anyone but was anonymously reported to be carrying a sawn-off shotgun in his backyard, will be noted with much interest.
Harrison was well known and well respected by people in Warwick who organised a public memorial service for him on the Friday after his death on Tuesday morning. Harrison had impaired eyesight and lived on a disability benefit. He was an adviser for the Australian Federation Party and was also known as a kind and devout Christian.
Many concerned people will also be wondering if Harrison was one of the “conspiracy theorists” that Queensland Police Commissioner Katrina Carroll pledged to “come after” following the fatal shooting late last year at Wieambilla, near Tara, of six people – two junior police officers, three Train family members and a neighbour.
Harrison was spoken of highly by his neighbour Amelia Otto, as well as a former female classmate and a friend named Jacob Jensen, who told the Toowoomba Chronicle he was “a good bloke” who had drinks and played pool with him and his friends. Mrs Otto described him as “like an uncle to our children and a very loved and dear friend”. The former school mate said it “was obvious he had an incredibly brilliant mind”.
Last year the ABC reported on an email sent out to Queensland police and presumably authorised by Chief Commissioner Carroll, which referred to media reporting on a statement released by the QPS relating to the Wieambilla shooting.
“This commentary will result in increased reporting to police regarding members of the community who allegedly hold a range of ideological beliefs. This includes conspiracy theorists and religious-related ideology,” the email stated.
It further explained that officers must record all interactions with people holding ideological beliefs in the central information database used by officers across the state known as QPrime at the “first available opportunity”. The interactions would then be assessed by the state’s counter-terrorism investigation teams and the matter can then be escalated and individuals flagged.
“The memo describes the at-risk groups as conspiracy theorists, religious, social or political extremists and sovereign citizens, as well as people with ideologies relating to capitalism, communism, socialism or Marxism,” the ABC reported.
So the unanswered question is, was Steven Harrison flagged as an extremist of some sort and the stand-off at his home escalated. Harrison’s friend and fellow Australian Federation Party member Brett Tunbridge certainly believes the use of the sonic weapon and strobe lights escalated the situation that he actively tried to de-escalate.
Tunbridge talked with Harrison on and off for more than four hours on an encrypted messaging system using computer tablets. He said Harrison basically froze in a foetal position on the floor of his bedroom and prayed continually. He was fearing the worst because he recognised that a sound device was being directed at him.
Tunbridge said he and Harrison had encountered police use of an LRAD sound weapon at the big national protest rally in Canberra in February last year. Tunbridge said he had witnessed people suffering burns from the device. The Canberra Times mocked the claim as “a conspiracy theory” after it was raised in Parliament by then Federal MP Craig Kelly.
This time however, residents around Harrison’s home complained to police about the noise while local media (The Toowoomba Chronicle) also reported it as “loud alarms and flashing lights”. Tunbridge said the sound of the sonic weapon could briefly be heard in the background of footage posted by 7 News but later scrubbed.
Tunbridge, who lived half an hour from Harrison’s home, had tried to calm the situation and when he asked police if he could mediate at the site, he was turned down. Harrison’s father was also at the seige with police and was also refused access to his son. “I offered the (police) Area Commander to mediate the situation because I was 100 per cent certain he (Harrison) wouldn’t harm me,” he told Cairns News.
Tunbridge said he could understand this reasoning behind the police refusal but was alarmed by the use of the sonic weapon which at one stage blasted through the tablets being used by Harrison and himself. He said the noise “nearly took my ear out”. On Wednesday Harrison shared the events that night with Chris Smith (former Sky News and 2GB host) on TNT Radio.
Tunbridge said the only gun he knew that Harrison possessed was a gel blaster gun used to shoot cans in his backyard. His 11-year-old son had used it with Harrison in the backyard. He did not know if Harrison had any other gun, but according to an “anonymous report” cited by police, he was seen in his backyard with a sawn-off shotgun.
Tunbridge said Harrison initially ignored police after they knocked on his door on Monday night, thinking it was some sort of prank. Tunbridge also believed Harrison would refuse to respond as he would have seen his home as his castle. He had a shower and then went to his bedroom. 12 hours later at 8.30am on the Tuesday, police reported him dead with a gunshot wound to the head.
Harrison was considered to be an expert in the area of Constitutional history and had three university degrees and thousands of books at his home. He was also an outspoken opponent of Covid lockdowns and advised the Australian Federation Party on constitutional matters. Tunbridge described him as a quiet and very devout Christian and member of the Australian Monarchist League.
Harrison’s sister Debbie spoke at the public memorial service in Warwick last Friday and Tunbridge asked that the family be given some space and respect. He said supporters of the protest march in Canberra also held a memorial service there. When spoken to by Cairns News he said he was still in shock a week later and finding it difficult to handle the situation mentally.
The Toowoomba Chronicle reported that the siege would be investigated by the Ethical Standards Division of Queensland Police Service and the findings given to a coronial inquiry. The same will be happening after a man aged 50 was found dead after a shooting in Townsville on the Sunday night.
Curiously, the Townsville and Warwick incidents on Sunday and Monday played out almost identically. As happened in Townsville on Sunday night, suburbs around the Warwick siege site were locked down and police reported the persons of interest as dead the following morning.
However only in Townsville were shots fired 12 hours earlier around 9pm in the suburb of Kirwan. Police used a drone to surveil the location and spoke to the alleged shooter through a loudspeaker.