"IT was going to happen sooner or later."

These are the devastating words of the grandfather of 14-year-old Elijah Doughty, an Aboriginal boy mown down by a ute-driver and left to die on Monday.

The boy's lifeless body was found in bushland by a road in his hometown of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. The driver, a 55-year-old man who now faces a manslaughter charge, allegedly fled the scene.

Elijah's death has sparked community outrage and prompted hundreds to protest his death and the leniency perceived to have been afforded to his alleged killer.

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Dozens of locals have been arrested and are expected to be charged following a riot over the death which some believe to be racially motivated. Police say there is no evidence of this.

Now that the violence has subsided and time has passed for people to take in the loss and the reality of what happened to Elijah, Kalgoorlie is in mourning - but it's not exactly in shock.

Tuesday's protest, locals say, wasn't just about Elijah. Trouble had been brewing for a long time.

"It's like a powder keg and it all came out yesterday," Albert Doughty, Elijah's grandfather told local radio.

The town of Kalgoorlie, part of the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, services a major mining centre in central WA.

Acting mayor Allan Pendal says its location - 600km east of Perth and on the edge of the desert - and its big population of indigenous people in and around the district, are important to consider when understanding the place.

Hayley Garlett was among family members trying to keep the peace. Photo / Nine News
Hayley Garlett was among family members trying to keep the peace. Photo / Nine News

By most accounts it is generally a great place to live - local authorities have been very insistent of this over the past few days in particular.

But like a lot of rural areas it's had some issues with crime, particularly crime perpetrated by restless youth. And with many of these young people coming from the local indigenous community, racial tensions have developed which yesterday reached boiling point.

Mr Pendal told news.com.au yesterday's protests made it clear that the city had issues of racism to address, but said it didn't reflect the majority of the Kalgoorlie community.

"What's emerged from the incident is that that is the case, we've had issues like everywhere else in Australia with racial tensions that we've been addressing," he said.

"No one expected the gravity of this was going to occur as a result, but I'd be naive to say we don't have racial problems in our community."

Some locals - the accused man not among them - have allegedly threatened young Aboriginal kids who may have stolen motorbikes on Facebook.

Speaking on ABC radio, Mr Doughty said kids in the town were "motorbike mad".

"They've got nothing else to do," he said.

Mr Doughty said his grandson had two bikes of his own which had been stolen - "a lot of bikes go missing" - and admitted that Elijah had stolen bikes in the past.

"It's been brewing for a while now," Mr Doughty said.

Mr Doughty said his grandson had stolen his last bike, and "paid with his life".

The grieving grandfather said although Elijah's death was shocking, something like this was going to happen "sooner or later".

Mr Doughty said the indigenous community, including elders and community leaders had been frustrated by alleged social media threats and reports from boys that they had been targeted, and after Elijah's death, their anger flowed.

WA Police did not confirm with news.com.au whether they were aware of the reported Facebook threats, or whether social media would form part of their investigation.

The 55-year-old man charged with manslaughter over Elijah's death faced a Perth court today via video link and had his case remanded until next month.

Acting Commander Darryl Gaunt said there was no evidence to suggest race played a part in the alleged attack.

"There's nothing to suggest this is anything other than an Aboriginal boy that's been tragically killed, not that he's Aboriginal and that this was motivated by his Aboriginality," he said.

But he did say that social media played a part in the violent reaction that followed Elijah's death, and had helped to inflame the reaction.

"There's a variety of social media platforms, some of them are Kalgoorlie-based ... the unfortunate thing is if people don't moderate, that tends to take on a life of its own there's no doubt in my mind that it was a contributing factor to yesterday," he told local radio.

Mr Pendal also told news.com.au he believed the city had "not been helped by some people's comments on social media".

State MP Wendy Duncan, who represents Kalgoorlie on the WA Legislative Council, said Facebook had a lot to answer for when it came to the protests.

Photo / Jade Clift
Photo / Jade Clift

"It only really focused on the unruly behaviour of a few when really what we need to do is have the community pull together and that's why I've been speaking to elders who are just desperate to work with everyone to help these young kids," she said.

Ms Duncan said "trouble has been brewing" around youth crime in the community, and a more cohesive approach between community leaders, Aboriginal elders, police and government was needed.

Though some authority figures like Ms Duncan have felt an urgency to act on this issue recently (she said she called a meeting with police and elders before Christmas last year) an undercurrent of racial tension has been running through Kalgoorlie for a lot longer.

In 2005 an Aboriginal boy threw himself in front of a car in an apparent suicide attempt, and was charged with wilful damage of a vehicle, The Australian reported.

In 2006, a WA race-hate law was used to charge an Aboriginal teenager who had called another girl "a white slut" and kicked her, but a magistrate found she had been provoked.

Local Aboriginal mistrust of police is believed to be a major factor in prompting yesterday's protest.

Speaking about the case of Elijah's alleged killer, a local Aboriginal elder expressed her outrage at the charge.

Local elder Trevor Donalds told ABC he felt some of the frustration expressed at yesterday's riots was justified.

"I felt there was a lot of raw anger, a lot of frustration. I saw a lot of angry people, and justifiably so," he said.

"They have every reason to be frustrated and angry, however there is a process, there's a system, and there's a criminal justice system that we have no choice but to follow.

"The police have a job to do and most of our Aboriginal people recognise and understand that. That process will take place and all we are asking is that there is fair justice seen to be done."

Dozens of people have been arrested over yesterday's protest but charges are yet to be laid.

Acting Mayor Mr Pendal said he and council colleagues were meeting with community leaders to "decide a way forward".

The man charged over Elijah's death remains in an undisclosed prison and is due to reappear before the court next month.

In the meantime, Elijah's family has called for cool heads.

"I just want everyone to calm down, I'd just like to see justice take its course the right way," Mr Doughty, the boy's grandfather, said.

- news.com.au