The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that officers were justified in firing shots at a fleeing man who earlier fired a shotgun at them during an incident on an Auckland motorway.
The man had escaped from Waitakere District Court, along with another man who was wanted for arrest, two days earlier when he was located by police detectives in Auckland’s Blockhouse Bay on October 19, 2018.
The man fired a shotgun at officers on the Northern Motorway as the pair attempted to escape in a vehicle, which was pursued by officers at the scene and the armed offenders squad, authorities said.
On multiple occasions, the man fired his shotgun at the AOS officers, and a member of the public was shot by the man during the incident, according to the report released today.
The commission said that AOS officers were justified in firing shots at the man, but "only because these officers were part of the special tactics group, 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 Judge Colin Doherty, who serves as the commission's chairman.
The man sustained minor injuries in the incident.
The man who escaped custody was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months for serious charges related to the incident and unrelated offences. The second man involved was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison.
Police today acknowledged the report’s findings, with Inspector Mark Fergus, Acting Waitematā District Commander, saying: "The actions of this man were highly dangerous and extremely reckless, and the consequences for our staff, road users and the general public could have been deadly.
“This was a high-pressure and quickly unfolding situation where our exceptionally skilled and courageous staff had to make immediate decisions to protect themselves and the public from a dangerous armed offender.”
The IPCA found that a lack of training and supervision of police staff in the custody area contributed to the man's escape from the Waitakere District Court, which has since been addressed.