Two police officers were justified in shooting at an armed carjacker in Auckland’s Penrose two years ago, the police watchdog says.
The man held three civilian drivers at gunpoint during the incident on July 15, 2021, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) said.
It began when police received a report that a BMW SUV had been stolen from a dealership.
“Police identified the man driving the BMW on the motorway and, after several minutes, the man realised police were following him and fled at high speed,” the IPCA noted.
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“The man drove through road spikes police had set up and crashed the BMW into a traffic island at an intersection.
“The Authority found that, although the police’s decision to use road spikes to stop the man was justified, their use at that location exposed other drivers to danger and was in breach of police policy.”
A police officer approached the crash scene, holding a taser. The man got out of the car and pointed a pistol at the officer.
“The officer immediately fired the Taser, but this was ineffective,” the IPCA said. “The Authority concluded that the officer was justified in firing the Taser in self-defence.”
The man then attempted to hijack another vehicle at the intersection, but he couldn’t operate it. He went to another car and, as he was forcing his way into the driver’s seat, the driver fell out onto the road as the car rolled backwards.
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At this point, the officer swapped his taser for a pistol and fired at the man.
“We accept that the officer believed there was a genuine risk that the man would kill or seriously injure the driver,” IPCA chairman Judge Kenneth Johnston KC said.
“The officer’s use of force was necessary, proportionate, and reasonable in the circumstances as he believed them to be.”
That first shot missed the man, who sped off in the hijacked car.
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“Within about a minute, the man crashed the car at another intersection and hijacked a vehicle by holding his pistol to the driver’s head. Another officer stopped his car in front of the vehicle, got out and fired one shot at the man through its windscreen,” the IPCA said.
“The shot hit the steering wheel and a fragment of the bullet struck the man’s abdomen.
“The Authority determined that this officer was justified in shooting at the man to defend himself and the driver of the hijacked vehicle.
“The officer believed the man posed an imminent threat to him and the driver, and that no other, less forceful, tactical options to stop the man were available.”
After the man surrendered, police provided him with first aid and took him to Auckland Hospital.
He was later convicted of a raft of charges in relation to the incident: Failing to stop, presenting a firearm at a person, reckless driving, aggravated injury, attempted unlawful taking and unlawfully taking motor vehicles.
Police acknowledged the IPCA’s findings.
“This was a complex and rapidly evolving incident, from which police have taken learnings,” Auckland City District Commander Acting Superintendent Sunny Patel said.
“This type of response is always the last resort for our staff.”