Two Aboriginal teenagers aged 14 and 18 were shot by police in central Sydney on Saturday after mounting a crowded footpath in a stolen car and hitting a bystander as officers gave chase.
The 14-year-old driver was hit in the chest and arm and his passenger, 18, took a bullet to the neck after police opened fire on the windcsreen of their car as it sped onto a busy pavement in the city's Kings Cross nightclub zone.
Assistant police commissioner Mark Murdoch said onlookers "literally jumped for their lives" as the stolen vehicle mounted the kerb at around 4am, mowing down a 29-year-old woman who was hospitalised with chest injuries.
Murdoch said police had recognised the driver and passenger as youths from the impoverished Aboriginal district of Redfern and they had sped the car onto the footpath "to avoid apprehension" as officers had approached them.
"That vehicle struck a female pedestrian. That female pedestrian was pushed under the front of the vehicle,' Murdoch told reporters.
"At that point police, in an attempt to protect that person, discharged a number of shots into the vehicle."
Whether "that decision turned out to be the right decision" would be determined by an internal investigation but Murdoch said his advice was "that the police had little other option" to protect onlookers.
"We have a vehicle being driven on the footpath... when there are many tens, if not potentially hundreds of people. That to me presents a significant risk of harm to the community," Murdoch said.
Both teenagers were in hospital and the driver was in a "serious but stable" condition. Murdoch said they were expected to recover from their injuries.
Police were meeting with Redfern's Aboriginal elders to discuss the incident, Murdoch added, urging calm in the inner-city community where deaths linked to police pursuits have been a flashpoint for wild riots in the past.
"I would hope (the community) understands that we need to investigate exactly what happened and why it happened," he said.
"As soon as we know something, they'll know."
Extra police would be deployed in Redfern on Saturday night if needed, he added.
Aborigines are Australia's most disadvantaged minority, with shorter life expectancy and much higher rates of imprisonment and disease than the broader population.