Shots fired at a driver in the Coromandel justified
24 October 2019
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that it was reasonable for an officer to fire 21 shots at a driver who repeatedly drove towards and reversed at him in the Coromandel on 28 August 2017.
The incident occurred after Police were advised that a firearm and a silver Holden Commodore car had been stolen in two separate incidents in the Coromandel area. An officer armed himself with a pistol and later located the offenders, a man driving a Subaru and a woman who was driving the Holden.
The officer pulled the woman over and was in the process of arresting her when the man in the Subaru drove towards them and rammed the Police car's open door. The man then reversed around the Police car in the direction of the officer, who believed the man was trying to run him over and kill or seriously injure him. The man repeatedly tried to run the officer over.
The officer fired multiple shots, intending to incapacitate the driver. The woman, who had escaped arrest, then got into the Subaru and it drove off. No one was injured during the incident. The man and woman were subsequently arrested and charged. Both pleaded guilty to unlawfully taking a motor vehicle and burglary, and the man also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.
The Authority determined that the officer was justified in arming himself, and in firing the shots in self-defence.
"The man could not be stopped by any other means than the use of a firearm. The officer believed he was in a vulnerable position and had no realistic way of hiding or escaping. The other defensive options available (such as baton, pepper spray, or Taser) would have been ineffective against an attacker using a car as a weapon" said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
The Authority also found that the officer breached Police policy by not putting on ballistic body armour when he armed himself, and that Police are addressing issues they identified with the post-shooting procedures in this case.
Police use of a firearm in the Coromandel (PDF, 576 KB)