‘A fight for my life’: Australian officer survives sword attack
In a move that undeniably saved his life, Senior Constable Andy Swift did the exact opposite of what most people would do – he moved toward the danger
Reprinted with permission from the WA Police Union newsletter Police News
By Jessica Porter, WA Police Union
“At that moment, I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t hear a sound. The adrenaline just started flowing and my mind became incredibly focused. I just knew I had to fight for my life.”
Those thoughts went through Senior Constable Andy Swift’s mind just moments before he felt the tremendous blow of a 1.2m samurai sword cracking his head and fracturing his skull.
Despite the potential outcome of that forceful strike, it wasn’t his own life that Andy was focused on; it was the lives of two teenage boys and their mother.
Full details of the evening of July 19, 2017, came to light after a Supreme Court jury found former boxer Milos Radovic guilty of attempting to murder the police officer.
The horrific injuries Radovic caused were confronting and graphic. They were shared throughout Australia and shown to millions of people as an example of the incredible sacrifice Andy made by putting himself in harm’s way, protecting the lives of innocent people.
Just a couple of hours before the culmination of this fateful day, Andy and his partner Constable Natalie Sgherza were tasked to attend a Rockingham home because of a frantic triple zero call. The caller believed 46-year-old Radovic was breaching a violence restraining order by attending and damaging the home of his ex-wife and sons.
Andy and Natalie had never worked together before this night. In fact, Andy had just returned to work from holidays and this was his first shift after being promoted to senior constable.
Natalie had also just been made operational about three weeks prior, after graduating non-operational from the Academy in 2016.
The duo were sent to the job under priority two conditions because of alerts against Radovic.
“There were alerts on the system that meant if any family domestic violence incidents came through for that address and involving Radovic, we had to get there as quick as we could,” Andy said.
When the pair got to the house, the full story was starting to unfold as two terrified teenagers emerged at the front door.
Luckily, their sister was not there.
A trail of destruction was also apparent as windows at the house looked as though they had been slashed by a razor sharp object. The family was also shaken by threats to kill. The children believed these came from their father.
The police duo split up and interviewed the two teenagers, with their mother and a family friend present.
At the same time a few suburbs away, Radovic’s menacing trail continued. He was caught on CCTV at an automotive workshop brandishing the samurai sword in the hope of intimidating the workshop’s owner and associate. Radovic told the jury he went to the workshop after hearing a rumour that one of his sons was being used as a drug smuggler.
Radovic said he left the workshop with the intent of going home, but turned back after receiving a phone call from a man he tried to confront. He then said he headed for an address in Rockingham where he believed he had seen the man and his associate before.
Back at the Rockingham house, the police officers continued their interviews with the teenage boys.
Andy could tell both sons were petrified of their father and were incredibly fearful that it would only be a matter of time before Radovic would return to terrorise the family.
Andy poignantly remembers answering the teen’s question of ‘What if he comes back?’ “I said to him that I would arrest him,” Andy recalls. “And I promised him that their father would never hurt them again.”
That powerful promise was enacted only moments later when a loud banging came from the front door.
A man yelled to get the attention of police, saying Radovic was out the front.
Andy drew his taser and walked quickly to the front of the house, with Natalie following closely behind him.
They were confronted by a tall figure who appeared to have something behind his back, with his hands reached behind his head.
Both officers told the Supreme Court jury that at that point, they could not see what he was holding.
“I thought he was holding a baseball bat,” Andy told Police News.
Telling Radovic to drop the weapon, Andy armed his taser.
But the threat of a taser did not deter Radovic. He willingly and decisively came toward Andy with the sword raised above his head.
His two-handed grip would bring the sword rapidly towards the officer’s unprotected skull.
“I used my taser but it had no effect on him whatsoever,” Andy said.
In a move that undeniably saved his life, Andy did the exact opposite of what most people would do; he moved toward the danger. “I knew that if I stayed at the distance I was, the sword would come down directly and kill me. Or if it came down on an angle, it could have cut my throat.”
In a moment of selflessness, Andy could only think to put himself between the attacker and the innocent family.
With heartfelt compassion, Andy recalled his decision. “I knew that if I didn’t stop him, there could have been three people that could have been dead. He could have gone into the house and killed his ex-wife and those two kids.”
The forward motion put Andy directly under the path of the blade, but it gave him more of a chance to disarm Radovic. The sword rushed towards Andy’s head, causing deep lacerations to his forehead and the top of his skull.
He blacked out for a moment.
“I didn’t realise the extent of my injuries until later. I wasn’t in pain, my head was probably numb, however I was acutely aware of the blood running down my face and dripping everywhere,” he said.
Andy and Radovic struggled while Natalie fired her taser into Radovic. Luckily, Andy managed to wrap his hands around Radovic’s neck and bring him to the ground. They both fell onto the road. The samurai sword landing just centimetres away.
Despite being struck, Andy immediately got up and grappled with Radovic again. Andy managed to restrain Radovic with Natalie’s help and told Radovic he was under arrest on suspicion of breaching a violence restraining order.
The officers managed to handcuff Radovic and place him in the rear of their vehicle.
Now that the initial threat of Radovic was reduced, Natalie was able to fully appreciate the extent of Andy’s injury.
“I thought he was going to die,” she said. “When he looked down, I thought I could see his brain. It was so deep and it was just pouring out blood. I just got really shaky. I couldn’t even open the first aid kit properly to try and get him a bandage. Taking into account the injury he had, I can’t believe he managed to do his job the way he did. It’s very impressive.”
At Andy’s request, Natalie started taking photographs of his injuries and the scene. “I was quite glad that he was so experienced and calm. He was able to give me direction so I didn’t have to panic. But it was quite clear that he had a very serious injury.”
Andy also praised the support and quick action of Natalie that day. “Natalie is an awesome person and a great police officer,” he said. “She deserves a bravery medal for her actions. She was professional and efficient, she stepped up when required, something more seasoned officers maybe wouldn’t have done.”
Within minutes, colleagues who had heard the pair’s radio calls for assistance converged at the address.
They were confronted by a blood-soaked street and a man screaming from the inside the pod of the police van.
On a video recorded at the scene, Radovic could be heard screaming “fear me” and “feel my power” in what was coined as a “community broadcast” to the people of Rockingham.
Witnesses also gave evidence that Radovic yelled “I’m going to kill youse” before the attack on Andy.
While Andy was taken immediately to Royal Perth Hospital’s trauma unit, Rockingham Detective Senior Constable Sam Baker initiated his investigation into the confronting attack. “It would have been gut wrenching for the first responders,” he said. “Witnessing firsthand, a work colleague sustaining such a horrific injury and not knowing if Swifty was going to live or die. As a police officer you hope you never encounter this type of event.”
With the assistance of the Department of Public Prosecutions, Sam’s investigation provided compelling and overwhelming proof that Radovic tried to kill Andy.
Radovic’s defence was that the attack on Andy was entirely accidental. He claimed he had a muscle spasm after being tasered. This was despite taser logs disputing any effective deployment causing Radovic neuromuscular incapacitation at that moment.
Notwithstanding the evidence, Radovic still maintained the spasm caused him to bring the sword from a downward position in his left hand, across his body, changing hands, then turning it upright in a “flowing” tai chi motion. He then said he bumped into Andy and the sword “rolled over the top” of Andy’s head.
Prosecutor Justin Whalley led the State’s evidence throughout the five-day trial.
He questioned Radovic as to why he had the samurai sword in the first instance. Radovic claimed he brought it for protection because he believed the men he planned to confront were armed with guns.
Quizzically, Mr. Whalley asked if Radovic planned to deflect bullets with his “magic sword” to which Radovic said “maybe.”
During closing arguments, Mr. Whalley said a number of witnesses heard Radovic yell “I’m going to kill you all” on the day of the attack, and that Andy’s fractured skull was consistent with the actions of a deliberate blow.
Speaking to the jury, Mr. Whalley questioned whether the rambling from the back of the police van by Radovic was consistent with his version of events; that the whole debacle was an unfortunate mistake.
“The audio, that six minutes of him in the back of the police van, his community broadcast to the people of Rockingham as he described it yesterday… Is that consistent with an angry man who deliberately attacked a police officer with homicidal intent or is it consistent with his version which is a remorseful man who belatedly realised he’s accidentally injured Senior Constable Swift as he claimed in his evidence yesterday,” Mr Whalley said.
He asked the jury if Andy’s injuries were consistent with a double-handed blow straight down onto the scalp and tracking onto the forehead. “Or, is it consistent with some sort of uncontrolled application of force with the sword coming into contact with the police officer’s head and the accused having no control over it whatsoever?”
Needless to say, the jury were not going to believe the farcical version of events Radovic proffered.
“I’d suggest it goes something like this,” Mr. Whalley told the jury. “The accused man was enraged. He was extremely angry about something. He’s waving his sword around. He’s shouting threats, “I'm going to kill youse”. He was going to kill someone, anyone.”
In a profound comment on Andy’s bravery, Mr Whalley said Andy stepped in, when everyone else ran away. “As all the civilians quite understandably ran away from this armed man shouting his threats to kill, as they ran away from the danger, Senior Constable Swift walked towards him because that’s his job. And he had the courage to put himself in harm’s way to protect the community that he’d sworn to serve. That’s why he was the one who confronted the accused in the middle of his homicidal rage, and that's why he became the target of the accused’s homicidal intent,” he said.
It did not take long for the jury to judge the facts and convict Radovic.
Andy was relieved with the guilty verdict and said he was pleased the whole ordeal was now over.
“It's been a long time, 14 months waiting for this verdict,” he said. “I don't feel anything towards him personally, it's just an unfortunate series of events. I did black out momentarily and if it had been any longer I don’t know if I would have received another injury that could have been fatal. My wife understandably wanted me not to work in this job again…but I actually like my job and I do feel that on the whole we do a good job and we help people,” Andy said.
Andy’s 23-year-old son also felt differently about policing and has now changed his mind about entering the WA Police Force due to the injuries his father sustained.
Sam was pleased the investigation he undertook was able to successfully convict Radovic.
“I was absolutely over the moon when I heard the verdict,” Sam said. “I was so happy for Swifty his family, and Nat and her family too. It was a great result and lead by a great team from DPP. I was fully aware of the emotional stress and the impact the horrific incident was going to have on work colleagues, family, the police force, WAPU, external agencies such as domestic violence advocates and the Government.”
Sam, who has been a police officer for 18 years, said he had never seen an injury like the one inflicted on Andy. “I would be lying if I said it didn’t affect me. This incident affected all police officers, knowing what happened to Swifty could happen to any of us in a split second.”
Natalie said the incident did not take a huge toll on her however, her 11-year-old daughter was apprehensive about her mum going to work. “She would bring it up in conversation, about being safe at work,” Natalie said. “But it’s definitely something that is always in the back of my mind, particularly going to any kind of job that includes a weapon.”
Andy said while the severity of incidents such as these were not common, domestic violence in the Rockingham region was an issue. “I’d say about 70 per cent of all the jobs we go to are domestic violence incidents.”
Attending these types of jobs day-in, day-out could have an enormous cumulative effect on officers if they are not able to process the horrific scenes they are confronted with. “You can’t let it become your life,” Andy said. “We have to be able to distance ourselves from the emotional aspect of the situation and focus on the practical task in hand.”
Returning to work just one month after the incident, Andy said he was a bit nervous.
“Or maybe I should say, self-conscious, because I was aware that I had become recognisable but I wasn’t concerned about returning to frontline duties,” he said.
Following Radovic’s conviction, Andy and Natalie have planned to meet with the family they were protecting that day.
“Hopefully Radovic will be put away for a long time, giving his children the chance to grow up without fear of him,” Andy said.
“I just hope they will be able to create their own lives away from him.”
Radovic was sentenced to nine years. He will be eligible for parole after serving seven years. The Department of Public Prosecutions has sought leave to appeal the sentence.