Non-fatal Police Shooting On Motorway North Of Auckland Justified
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that two officers were justified in firing shots at a male passenger in a car fleeing Police to avoid arrest on the Northern Motorway in October 2018. The man had fired a shotgun at Police multiple times during the chase.
The man was a remand prisoner who had escaped from the Waitakere District Court two days earlier where he faced charges, including aggravated robbery (with a firearm), wounding with intent to injure and assaulting Police.
Two Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) officers in a vehicle driving behind at high speed fired separate shots at the man sitting in the front passenger seat of the fleeing car. He suffered minor injuries, and no one else was harmed. Police continued the pursuit, arresting the man and his driver shortly afterward.
The Authority found that the AOS officers were justified in firing shots at the man while attempting to prevent his escape, but only because these officers were part of the Special Tactics Group (STG), had exceptionally high levels of training and experience, and demonstrated a thorough understanding of the risks involved.
“There are substantial dangers involved in Police firing shots on a busy motorway in the middle of the day. We would not usually consider such shooting to be justified, even by AOS officers. However, we are satisfied that shooting at the man was a proportionate and necessary response in this case”, said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
In addition, the Authority determined that:
- the AOS officers should have been provided with more background information on the two men;
- overall control of the incident should not have been passed to the AOS Commander; and
- although there were communication issues during this incident, they did not significantly affect the Police response.
The Authority also considered a lack of training and supervision of Police staff in the custody area contributed to the man’s escape from the Waitakere District Court, as Police failed to alert court security and the Court that the man was known to be an escape risk. Police have subsequently addressed these issues.