- Brandon Rich has been identified with the permission of his family.
Brandon Rich's heartbroken grandmother took to the witness box to recount the day her grandson died while in police custody.
At the coronial inquest at Dubbo Court House on Monday, November 20, 2023, Denise Rich told the court about her close relationship with her grandson.
"Every Sunday we would go to the markets in Orange or we would go fishing. Brandon when he was younger would even sleep with his grandfather, and after his grandfather passed away, he would still come and visit and then would sleep with me," she said.
A few months after his grandfather died, Mr Rich - 14 at the time - moved in with his grandmother permanently.
Ms Rich told the court that it wasn't until Mr Rich was in his 20s, after she suspected he had begun using drugs, that he became difficult to live with.
"He wasn't really abusive first off, but after using he was...I still loved him," she said as she broke down in tears.
Ms Rich told the court there was an incident where Mr Rich broke things off her china cabinet and another where she noticed damage to her front door but couldn't prove it was him that did it.
There were three other incidents where she reported Mr Rich to police for verbal abuse.
When asked about her relationship with Mr Rich in his final 18 months, she told the court that she was verbally abused a lot, especially if she tried to mention his drug use.
Mr Rich was taken to a mental health facility, but was let go.
By Christmas 2021, Ms Rich wanted more protection for herself but had no concerns about Mr Rich still living with her.
Christmas 2021 held good memories for Ms Rich who told the court her grandson was "as good as gold".
But, on December 29, 2021 the pair began having some "difficulties" over breakfast as Mr Rich was cooking and had filled the kitchen full of smoke, Ms Rich told the court.
"We had an argument about the mess...and then he asked me about buying him smokes but I'd given up smoking and hadn't had one for 16 weeks so I said no I wasn't going to buy anymore and he got verbally abusive about that," she said.
After the argument in the kitchen, Mr Rich returned to his room where another argument broke out after he had turned on the air conditioner, fan and electric blanket.
"The arguments and abuse made me go to the police, I told Brandon 'I've had enough and I'm going to the police to get an AVO' [apprehended violence order]," she said.
Ms Rich told the court she drove down to the police station but it was shut, before she saw a police car with two officers - one male and one female.
"I asked them to come up to my place and gave them the address, but didn't mention what the issue was," she said.
When the police arrived they spoke with Ms Rich outside her house about getting an AVO, before Mr Rich returned after he had left the house while Ms Rich was out.
Ms Rich told the court another argument started when he heard her say she didn't want him there.
"I think he was more or less frightened to be held in custody," she said.
Ms Rich had returned to her lounge room when the two officers walked Mr Rich to the back of their police vehicle.
It was a few minutes later that Ms Rich saw Mr Rich trying to barricade the front door while the police officers were trying to get inside.
"I could then feel spray, so I went into my bedroom coughing, I couldn't get breath, so I went to my window and my neighbour said to come outside," she said.
"Once Brandon was sprayed he let go of the door and ran through the kitchen and I heard the bathroom door shut and presumed he went into the bathroom."
Ms Rich told the court she saw the two police officers follow Mr Rich through the house as she left.
"I then heard something break in the bathroom and went into the back room to see what was broken, and saw Brandon hanging out the bathroom window," she said.
She then walked back out into her front yard and stood with her neighbour.
"I didn't see anything else but I did hear shouting, I just heard a voice say 'get on the ground, get on the ground'," she said.
Ms Rich told the court another officer came out of the house and told her Mr Rich had gone into cardiac arrest.
Mr Rich was taken to hospital in the ambulance and Ms Rich followed them with her son.
"I waited in the foyer before I was told he had passed away," she said.
Ms Rich told the court that the matter had all taken place within an hour and a half.
From the time police arrived at the house to Mr Rich being taken away in the ambulance, the only discussion had was about an AVO and Mr Rich telling police he wouldn't have anywhere to live.
She said that she had asked Mr Rich to stop being abusive but it never worked.
The coronial inquest is set to continue.