Rex Bellotti Jr at best will soon become a prison statistic and at worst well I should not go there. This 21 year old is wanted by police after allegedly holding up a convenience store.
“My son’s life has been ruined, he has spiralled into depressions, he has lifelong injuries, he does not trust police, does not know what to make of people, of society. Rex Jr is representative of so many of our youth.”
“The Western Australian Police cannot even take responsibility for the incident that crippled not only my son’s body but his dreams too, his hopes, his future, his every energy. He tries again and again, he is only 20 years old now, doing it tough, has a young bub, but till the Police do the right thing by him then closure is not his.”
Two years ago, Rex Jr and I met and he gave his only ever interview, which was published in The Stringer and in The National Indigenous Times.
Here is part of it:
Rex Bellotti Jnr was fifteen years old when a police-four-wheel-drive struck him grievously near midnight on a March night in 2006, in the south west regional town of Albany. Thirteen hours later he would be airlifted to Perth, rushed for surgery and including on his left leg “which hung by the artery”.
I have come to know his parents quite well and his five younger siblings however till nearly three years ago I had never met the otherwise reclusive Rex Jnr. Despite years of writing about Rex Jr, more than 100,000 words, I knew him from the suite of police reports, crash investigation file documents, third party witness statements, affidavits, the Corruption and Crimes Commission report and other information I immersed myself into.
His family have protected him from the glare of public scrutiny and from the news media but his life is spiralling into confrontations with police, and he is now arrested for one alleged disorderly after another.
“I miss not being able to play football (AFL). I loved football and had hoped to go professional. I can still kick the ball with my right leg but I can’t with my left.”
“I am not allowed to run, if I do run it may cause harm to my left leg and if it starts to bleed the doctors say I have only one hour to get to hospital to save my life. I don’t run,” said Rex Jnr.
I asked Rex Jnr about the events on the night of the incident, after he had left a Wake to walk home along Old Lower King Road in his hometown of Albany.
“I remember what I was doing. I was having a smoke while walking along the road. There were three girls walking along with me. They were about 13 to 15 years old.”
“We began to cross the road, it was dark, and as we were walking towards the middle of the road all of a sudden out of nowhere I saw headlights coming at us. It was split second stuff.”
“They looked like high beams.”
“I pushed the girls out of the way. They would have been hit for sure. I did the right thing in saving them. I didn’t make it out of the way..”
“The car came fast.”
“I remember all that well enough.”
I asked Rex Jnr what he remembered after being hit by the police-four-wheel drive.
“I don’t remember much, I think I was conscious for about ten seconds, I went in and out and then out altogether.”
He doesn’t remember being taken to Albany Hospital nor does he remember being flown by the Royal Flying Doctor to Perth.
He woke up at Royal Perth Hospital.
“The scariest part for me wasn’t the hospital, it was the rehabilitation. It was the toughest time of my life trying to get my leg working again.”
“When the police car hit me they snapped both my legs but my left leg is the worry now. The police car snapped my right leg at the femur and my left leg hung together by an artery. They say if it gets hurt then there’s the prospect of an amputation.”
I asked Rex Jnr how he felt about the police officers who did this to him and how he felt about police in general.
“I hate cops with a passion. I can’t forgive those cops for what they did. I don’t trust them,” he said. “I understand that they didn’t help me while I was lying there. They never came to the hospital to see if I was alright. They have never taken the time in more than three years to check on me or contact me. I don’t know what they look like, they have never given me a minute’s worth. They have never admitted the full extent of what they did to me that night. How can I trust police when they’re like this?”
A week before the interview Rex Jnr and some friends were spoken to by a couple of local police officers. The officers asked questions about ‘a person of interest’ they were looking for. Rex Jnr told one officer of the incident that mangled his legs.
“He was shocked when I showed him my leg. He said, ‘Did we do that?’”
I asked Rex Jnr what he thought of that particular police officer.
“Actually, I didn’t hate him. He seemed to be quite a good person despite being a cop. He didn’t pack on anything like other smart arse cops looking to get us in trouble. There were none of the usual smart arse comments and smirks.”
Rex Jr began to rub his leg and I asked him if he was alright. “Yeah, I’m alright, it’s just the pins, the screws and rods in my leg – on a cold day like today I feel them more than usual,” he said.
Rex Jr remains close with his family.
“My family is pretty home bound, so I go from time to time to visit them. I am close with all my brothers and sister.”
I asked him about the future.
“I have to wait. It’s been more than three years and I haven’t received the insurance and compensation. That’s wrong but I’ll wait. Then I’ll buy a house with the money. I don’t know how long they are going to take but hopefully not as much time as has passed since what they did to me.”
“They took away my football, and I didn’t finish high school because of them. They need to let us get on with our lives.”
“I don’t expect justice, I don’t expect the cops to get honest but I am glad that many people have learned the truth – that you have been writing about what happened to me so cops think twice next time it happens.”
“I haven’t read everything you have written, you have written so much, I get tired but I am glad that my people throughout Australia know the truth and that every corner of Australia has at least heard of what the police did to me. I can’t forgive them but I won’t let them mess me up and get me down.”
It is now more than two years since that interview, and there has still been no compensation. In the more than five years since the incident that left him bleeding to death on Albany’s Lower King Road, there have been more than 30 protest actions, a rally and march to the Albany Police Station, nine rallies at WA’s State Parliament, a 400km march through the South West – from Albany to Parliament in Perth, a public forum, and numerous approaches to the WA Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan, and many submissions to Parliamentary Committees.
– Years pass, in fact six years and Rex Jr’s life has spiralled into a nightmare not only for himself but also for his parents and his siblings. Society can rubbish Rex Jr with the self-responsibility mantra. But this self-responsibility business is a reductionist copout. Instead of intervention and postvention, if we nobly strived for prevention this would have enabled extensive psychosocial and material support to Rex Jr. He is still to be compensated for his injuries. This could have been achieved with culpability waived for the police. I know what police have to deal with but we have to be about society in a holistic way, not just about the self. We need to be responsible for one another and in the end our most vulnerable and troubled need support – people need people. Rex Jr should not have robbed a convenience store, if true, but neither should he have been let down by so many. On March 6, 2009, he was just a kid.