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Man may be charged with WA boy's murder

AAP logoAAP 31/08/2016

Charges against a man accused of killing a 14-year-old Aboriginal boy could still be upgraded to murder, as community leaders seek to move forward from the racial tension that sparked an aggressive riot in WA.

The 55-year-old man's appearance in the Kalgoorlie Courthouse on Tuesday, on a charge of unlawfully killing Elijah Doughty in a crash between a ute and motorbike that was reported stolen, was interrupted when a peaceful protest of 200 people angry about the lesser charge turned violent.

The accused, who cannot be named, appeared briefly in court on Wednesday and was remanded in custody until next month.

WA Police Acting Commander Darryl Gaunt said the manslaughter charge was based on the evidence available but it could be upgraded to murder once police conducted a full examination of the vehicles and reconstructed the scene.

Twelve officers were injured in the clash with protesters on Tuesday, while five police cars and the court building were damaged, several people were arrested and nearby businesses were forced to shut down in fear.

Acting Mayor Allan Pendal described it as the worst violence he had seen in 30 years.

Elijah's grandfather, Albert Doughty, said there had been tensions in the town, which he believed motivated the protest.

Mr Doughty told 6PR radio he told the crowd to go home, but they became increasingly agitated, chanting "justice!"

Aboriginal elder Aubrey Lynch said that indicated those young people no longer respected their elders.

But Elijah's teenage cousin Hayley Garlett, who stood arms outstretched with her mother in front of police during the riot to try to quell the crowd, has been praised for her efforts.

"It was supposed to be a peaceful protest, I just don't understand how it got so out of control," she wrote on Facebook.

Mr Gaunt told reporters the pair showed not all Aboriginal protesters were acting unlawfully.

"What they did was incredibly brave and their family and friends should be incredibly proud of them as we are," he said.

"It wasn't supposed to be about trashing the town or terrifying people. It was supposed to be about showing their cause (and) respecting the death of Elijah."

Mr Gaunt also took the opportunity to dismiss rumours anyone other than the accused and the victim were involved, and denied a history of people running down others on bikes, but said youth crime was an issue.

Kalgoorlie MP Wendy Duncan urged people to show restraint on social media saying messages of hate made it worse, as it emerged that racist pages and comments on Facebook by a vocal minority about local indigenous people were contributing to tensions.

"Events like this, tragic as they are, are a catalyst for change and I think we need to seize that opportunity."

Attorney General Michael Mischin said "the lynch mob" attempt at justice was inexcusable.

Police Minister Liza Harvey said police resources, which included bringing in officers from other areas, were adequate.

A peaceful candlelight vigil was held on Tuesday and liquor restrictions were lifted on Wednesday.

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