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Family furious at death in police raid

Sydney Herald Sun | April 6, 2005
By Shelley Hodgson, Anthony Dowsley and Mark Buttler

POLICE claim a man lunged at them with a sword before they shot him dead in a dawn raid yesterday.

The shooting sparked wild scenes and threats of revenge from members of the dead man's family - forcing police to erect a screen around the Brooklyn property.

Special operations group police burst into the house in Geelong Rd just after 6am.

Mohamed Chaouk, 29, is believed to have been shot in the neck in the confrontation and died at the scene. One SOG member was injured and treated on the spot.

Police at first said Mr Chaouk was a suspect in an attempted murder, but later said he was wanted over other serious matters.

Mr Chaouk's family said he did not deserve to die, and alleged police had used excessive force.

His mother Fatima Chaouk, who was at home during the drama, claimed her son did not have a weapon.

Distraught relatives clashed violently with police at the scene.

The dead man's uncle, also Mohamed Chaouk, charged at uniform members and was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed. He was released soon after.

"You take one of us, I'm going to take 10 of you," he yelled at police.

As well as putting a screen around the house, police donned bullet-proof vests to guard nearby Altona North police station.

The Geelong Rd home was one of several raided yesterday. Five people -- three men and two women, including the dead man's mother and pregnant sister-in-law -- were arrested.

Three more people were arrested at another house in Geelong Rd, where Mr Chaouk's brother Ali, 24, is believed to live.

The Metropolitan Ambulance Service treated one of the arrested people, who was in shock.

Mr Chaouk's 13-year-old brother Omar said the police broke down his door and pointed a rifle at his head.

He said police told him: "If you look up I'll kill you."

The family alleges Omar was thrown to the floor and hit.

Fatima Chaouk was flanked by relatives as she wailed for her son.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mrs Chaouk said her son did not have a weapon in the house.

A cousin, who did not want to be named, said that Mr Chaouk was murdered by police.

"They (the police) could have used capsicum spray, they could have used taser guns or some other form of self-defence," she said.

"They are saying he had a sword.

"His mother is saying she would have known if he had a weapon.

"It's plain murder by the police."

Commander Terry Purton, of the Victoria Police crime department, said the raids were conducted as part of Operation Vapour, an organised crime squad investigation into drugs and attempted murder.

Mr Purton said there was a confrontation upstairs and a police member discharged a firearm, fatally wounding Mr Chaouk.

The homicide squad is conducting the investigation, which is being overseen by the ethical standards department.

Mr Purton would not comment on whether Mr Chaouk had produced a weapon.

Cannabis, furniture and a four-wheel drive were seized after detectives spent the day searching the property.

Neighbours said the family had lived in the house about 15 years.

"They never bothered us, they kept to themselves," one woman said.

The dead man's father and brothers appeared at an out-of-sessions court hearing last night.

Father Macchour Chaouk, 48, and brother Ali, 24, were both charged with multiple offences including attempted murder and trafficking drugs.

Brother Matwali Chaouk, 21, was also charged with multiple offences including trafficking drugs and resisting police.

A fourth man, Anthony Gerard Philpot, 47, from Bentleigh, faces five charges including obtaining property by deception.

All four were remanded in custody to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court today.

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