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Decision to fire shots at man in oncoming car justified

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer was justified in deciding to fire three shots at a man who drove his car directly at him while trying to escape from Police in Auckland on 31 January 2019.

At about 3.10pm, Police were called to Northcote where a man had fired shots. The Eagle helicopter tracked the man as he drove southwards, then west towards Point Chevalier. Thirty minutes later the man drove back to Northcote and threw an air pistol and two magazines out of the car window before driving south on the motorway to Manurewa.

The man drove at speed and on the wrong side of the road through a residential area. Three dog handlers attempted to block his car and bring it to a stop. At an intersection on Great South Road, the man spun his car 180 degrees to avoid road spikes. An officer drove forwards to block him, got out and pointed his Glock towards the man, challenging him to surrender. The man accelerated towards the officer from less than two metres away. The officer side-stepped and fired three shots at the man.

Shortly afterwards, Police forced the man’s car off the road, and Armed Offenders Squad officers arrested him.

Eagle footage and forensic evidence indicated that the officer fired at the man as he drove past and away from him. Despite this, the Authority accepts the officer was justified in deciding to fire in self-defence.

The officer perceived he was about to be run over, feared he could not get out of the way in time and fired to force the man to steer away from him. In the circumstances, he did not have any other tactical option available to protect himself.

The Authority found that the difference between the officer’s perception of when he fired the shots and his actual position when he did so could be adequately explained by the speed of unfolding events and the pressure of the situation.

Because the timeframe was so compressed, it is likely the officer fired the shots in response to the position of the man’s car as he perceived it to be a fraction of a second beforehand. He fired without processing in his mind that the car had now travelled past him” said Authority Chair Judge Colin Doherty.

The Authority investigated the man’s complaint that he was assaulted and abused during his arrest. We are satisfied that this is unsubstantiated.


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