Outcome - Fatal Shooting Of Stephen Bellingham
New Zealand Police National News Release
12:16pm 21 December 2007
On Wednesday the 26th of September 2007 at 8.37 pm, 37 year old Stephen Jon Bellingham was fatally shot by Police during an incident in Stanmore Road in Christchurch.
Superintendent Dave Cliff, District Commander of the Canterbury Police District, announced today that a careful and thorough investigation into the shooting of Mr Bellingham had been concluded.
Superintendent Cliff acknowledged that the death of a member of the community is deeply regrettable in terms of both loss to the family and to the community at large. The closest scrutiny should be paid to the circumstances of that loss of life to see if any criminal liability should attach.
Police consider that in this case, it is important that the circumstances as they are now known leading up to this incident, are understood as fully as is possible, given the fact that other related investigations are yet to be concluded.
In the days preceding this incident, witnesses report that Mr Bellingham was behaving and speaking irrationally and it was believed he had not slept for several days. His behaviour was causing his friends concern and he was described as behaving in a way that was out of character.
The circumstances immediately preceding the incident were that at around 8.20 pm, Mr Bellingham left his flat and went out to his van parked on Trent Street. He was seen by witnesses to repeatedly strike the vehicle with what was later found to be a golf club, smashing a number of the vehicle's windows.
He was described as looking erratic and upset.
In response, Mr Bellingham's flatmate phoned Police at 8.25 pm. Mr Bellingham returned to the flat with a bloodied hand and asked if Police had been called and was told they had.
Mr Bellingham returned to the vehicle and attempted to set a fire which was ultimately put out by his flatmate.
Mr Bellingham walked off from the vehicle onto Stanmore Road where he approached people seated in a car that were not known to him and repeatedly asked to swap the car.
Shortly after he made a similar approach to another man who was also fearful of him before approaching a Subaru car parked on Stanmore Road.
He smashed the window of that vehicle with a hammer and entered the vehicle.
Police received a number of calls to the Communications Centre from concerned members of the public.
Shortly after this, the responding officer, who was aware of the earlier damage caused and the fact that Mr Bellingham was armed with a hammer, arrived at the scene. He parked his patrol car, with warning lights operating, across the front of the Subaru fearing that vehicle may be stolen and driven off.
There were a total of twenty witnesses who saw or heard the confrontation between Mr Bellingham and the Officer.
Many of the witnesses indicated that Mr Bellingham was holding a hammer in an aggressive manner, either single-handedly or with both and walking toward the Officer.
A small number of witnesses indicated that Mr Bellingham did not have the hammer raised in an aggressive fashion and others did not see Mr Bellingham holding a hammer or advancing on the officer but did hear the shots and saw the aftermath.
Numerous witnesses heard the officer repeatedly ordering Mr Bellingham to put down his weapon as he advanced on him.
After repeatedly providing loud verbal warnings to put the weapon down and with Mr Bellingham advancing on the officer, he fired four shots, one of which resulted in a fatal wound to the area of the chest.
Mr Bellingham's death would have been instantaneous. A second wound was sustained to Bellingham's leg.
Several Witnesses saw the officer check Mr Bellingham after the incident however it was clear that he had died instantly, although an Ambulance was called.
A forensic pathologist subsequently conducted a post mortem examination on the 27th of September 2007. Toxicology analysis has confirmed the presence of BZP and a significant level of tetrahydrocannabinol. No alcohol, amphetamines or other drugs were detected.
Police have had the investigation independently reviewed and taken independent legal advice and can advise that no charges will be preferred. Police are fully satisfied that in the circumstances, the officer was in fear of his life and acting in self defence and that no less violent means of stopping Mr Bellingham was available to him in these circumstances.
Superintendent Cliff emphasised that this concluded the criminal investigation into Mr Bellingham's death but the matter remains subject to a coronial hearing where the complete circumstances of the incident will be presented to the Coroner.
Furthermore, the incident itself and the Police investigation remain subject to independent enquiry and review by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.
A full debrief will be conducted by Police early in 2008 which will look in detail at processes and procedures applied in this case to determine whether any lessons can be learned.
This is a tragic case where Stephen Bellingham was acting irrationally and violently on the evening in question. There is evidence from those who had had contact with him in the days immediately before this evening that his mental condition and stability were deteriorating. By the evening of the 26th of September 2007 it is clear that he was deeply disturbed. His marked displays of violence and willingness to use violence appear to be completely out of character. There is nothing to adequately explain why his mental condition had deteriorated to that point. As is often the case the reasons may never be known.
Police have advised both Mr Bellingham's family and the Police staff involved in this incident of these findings this morning.
Superintendent Cliff highlighted that this case is a tragedy for the Bellingham family, the Police Officers involved and their families and once again sincere condolences have been extended to the Bellingham family by a police officer who met with the family this morning in Napier.
It is anticipated that the officer involved in the shooting will be returning to duty early in the New Year and staff involved will continue to be offered welfare and support services.
Superintendent Dave Cliff