17 May 2023

Police seek shooter after St Lukes road rage incident

From Checkpoint, 5:17 pm on 17 May 2023

Sandringham/Mt Albert locals are worried the latest "appalling" violent crime carried out in their neighbourhood will solidify its reputation for crime.

A 15-year-old girl was taken to hospital on Tuesday night after the driver of a hatchback fired multiple shots at her family's minivan on Auckland's Saint Lukes Road.

What followed was a pursuit of more than 10km along the motorway from near the Mt Wellington Highway. The vehicles continued up the Northwestern Motorway before taking the Saint Lukes exit.

The two vehicles continued up St Lukes Road, and near the intersection with Asquith Ave a firearm went off multiple times, hitting the girl.

While the hatchback sped off, the minivan kept driving until it reached the safety of a petrol station up the road.

The girl suffered several injuries in the attack, but was in a stable condition at Auckland City Hospital and did not need surgery.

Police said she was expected to be discharged on Wednesday, and they were lucky not to be dealing with a homicide.

Another family member was also injured, though not from a firearm.

A St John spokesperson said they were notified about the incident at 10.05pm and responded with one ambulance, one rapid response unit and one manager.

"We assessed and treated one patient in a serious condition, and one in a moderate condition; both were transported to Auckland Hospital."

Detective Senior Sergeant Martin Friend said the incident was an "appalling display of violence".

Detective Senior Sergeant Martin Friend speaks to media outside the Auckland Central Police Station following a road rage incident which saw a 15-year-old female shot through a vehicle on 16 May, 2023.

 Martin Friend Photo: RNZ / Jordan Dunn

"We are incredibly fortunate today that we are not dealing with a homicide investigation."

He said police's priorities were on supporting the girl's family and finding the offender's vehicle.

"I would like to reassure the community that we are doing our utmost to make the persons responsible for this accountable for what's happened last night," Friend said.

Unclear motive

Police described the incident as "road rage", although it was unclear what the driver of the offending vehicle was incensed about.

A Z Energy spokesperson said the family arrived at their Sandringham station with the girl already injured.

Given the time of night, the store was only operating through its night-pay window, and the one staff member present quickly called emergency services.

The spokesperson said Z's focus was now on supporting the staff member who had to respond to this disturbing incident.

Z Station on Sandringham Road, Auckland, 15 May 2023.

Z Energy Sandringham. Photo: RNZ / Jordan Dunn

Sandringham Rd is a busy thoroughfare, and most residents - used to constant noise - slept through the disturbance last night.

However, student Ro Sherry was still awake when she heard the sirens of about four police cars wailing down the road.

"I could see the police car lights go by from inside the house and when I came out just after 10, I noticed the lights still going down at the service station. I didn't really know what was happening."

The incident had made her question the safety of the neighbourhood.

"All of my flatmates have agreed if we have classes late to try and do them at home and not be out when it's dark, especially in winter, because it's darker earlier; to just stay safe and make sure we're in contact all the time."

'Crime tag'

Sandringham Business Association general manager Mark Scherer said although the shots were fired outside of his suburb, it was still a point of grave concern for businesses in the area.

"We are disappointed that once again, Sandringham gets tagged with a crime tag."

He said security had been front of mind for everyone in Sandringham since the killing of dairy worker Janak Patel late last year, and a new community patrol was in the works.

However, he said more needed to be done to stamp this kind of violence out altogether.

"We feel that the light-handed approach has gone on far too long on all levels of crime and amongst our retailers, there's a complete consensus that we want the police and the courts to come down a lot harder on all levels of criminal activity."

Police did not know the calibre of the weapon used in the attack, but said it was powerful enough for shots to go through the vehicle and the victim.

Violent firearms-related offences had been trending upwards since 2018, and there had been 341 offences in just the first three months of this year.

Friend said the police took gun violence seriously and had teams going out every day to target criminals involved in such offences.

"We're doing our utmost to support the community in this and will continue to do so. Every day, firearms are located around New Zealand by police."

Friend said it was too early in the investigation to determine possible charges.

He said the incident did not appear to be gang-related, although inquiries were still underway.

Police urged anyone who had seen the offending vehicle to call them on 111, quoting file number 230516/7840, or Crime Stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.