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Police officers were 'sitting ducks' before fatal shooting in 2017



Lured down a dirt road, police officers were "sitting ducks" before Ricky Maddison fatally shot Senior Constable Brett Forte.

Coroner Terry Ryan says there were the hallmarks of an ambush before Maddison stepped out of his vehicle and opened fire with a machine gun following a police pursuit in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, on May 29, 2017.

However, Ryan said there were several systemic factors that may have contributed to 42-year-old Forte's death and it was possible the fatal shooting may have been prevented.

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Delivering his inquest findings on Tuesday, Ryan said there was a "significant failure of leadership" during the pursuit and missed opportunities to arrest Maddison before the shooting.

Maddison, 40, had been on the run and hiding in a rural stronghold for almost three months, avoiding an arrest warrant for a domestic violence incident.

Police spotted his vehicle in Toowoomba and followed him on the Warrego Highway, before Maddison abruptly stopped on a dirt road.

"The events that transpired when Mr Maddison exited his vehicle following a marked change in the terrain along the roadway had the hallmarks of an ambush," Ryan said.

Maddison opened fire on police vehicles with automatic weapons, peppering Forte's car with 27 bullets.

Forte urgently reversed but the vehicle rolled, trapping him and his partner Senior Constable Cath Nielsen inside.

He died from gunshot and shrapnel wounds.

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Rick Maddison died in a hail of bullets last May after killing police officer Brett Forte.

Maddison was later shot dead after being warned to surrender more than 80 times during a 20-hour siege.

He had fired at police, including at a helicopter, 21 times.

Ryan described the absence of an overall tactical command during the police pursuit of Maddison as a "significant failure of leadership".

He said it was not reasonable for Forte and his partner to call off the pursuit but a tactical commander could have come up with an effective plan.

"Unfortunately the confrontation was left to evolve on Mr Maddison's terms," Ryan said.

"Senior Constable Forte and Senior Constable Nielsen were, as Senior Constable Nielsen described, sitting ducks."

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Senior Constable Brett Forte was killed. (Supplied)

Ryan said officers in pursuit would have known Maddison was "undoubtedly dangerous" but described someone opening fire on Queensland officers with a machine gun as unprecedented.

He said officers could have been required to wear ballistic vests but noted that it may not have avoided Forte's death.

The inquest that started in 2021 had heard the Toowoomba tactical crime squad had been looking for Maddison, while Gatton police had received reports of automatic gunfire in the area prior to the shooting.

But Ryan said a more proactive approach by Gatton police could have led to Maddison's arrest before the shooting.

Gatton police had established the gunfire heard days before the fatal confrontation had come from a property owned by a family.

But police did not make the connection that the family was friends with Maddison, who was staying at the property.

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Brett Forte and Maddison

Officers installed a camera with "Gatton police" on it near the property which Maddison located, increasing his hostility toward authorities.

No record of the Gatton officers' activities was placed on the police database QPRIM.

The inquest also heard that a Toowoomba officer did not make a connection with a "Ricky Matterson" who was in the database for having a machine gun in 2007 before the shooting.

Ryan called for an overhaul of the way Queensland police search for intelligence information, saying the pursuit of Maddison may have been different if officers were aware of the automatic gunfire reports in the area.

The coroner extended his condolences to Forte's widow Susie Forte, also a police officer, saying she was "entitled to answers".

Susie spoke outside court and said she accepted the coroner's findings but was "drained" after years of waiting for the findings.

"I am sad, I am drained, I haven't had the chance to grieve my husband's death as I felt like I had to be one step ahead," she said.

The coroner also apologised to Susie for her treatment during the investigation into her husband's death.

"The emotional torture I have been subjected to has been worse than hearing my husband being murdered over the police radio," Susie said.

Reported with AAP.

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