2 Jul 2016

Firearm charge to be laid after manhunt

6:24 am on 2 July 2016

The man who was at the centre of a 30-hour siege in Palmerston North this week is due in court this morning.

Caleb Kovaleski, who's 25, faces firearm charges, and further charges are possible.

Manawatu Area Commander Inspector Sarah Stewart, right, and Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith

Manawatu Area Commander Inspector Sarah Stewart, right, and Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith at a news conference following the arrest. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Mr Kovaleski surrendered to police about 4.15pm on Friday and Manawatu Area Commander Inspector Sarah Stewart said the siege had ended peacefully, without anyone being injured.

Police issued an image of Kaleb Kovaleski.

Police released this photo of Mr Kovaleski Photo: Supplied / NZ Police

Speaking at a news conference, she said a firearm charge would be laid.

"Our focus now turns to the investigation - we'll be working through that over the next few days, which will include a scene examination of the property [where Mr Kovaleski was found].

"I can confirm that we did locate a firearm at the address."

Ms Stewart thanked the community for their patience during the lockdown.

"I would particularly like to acknowledge the patience, assistance and support of the local community, who have rallied together to support each other and the police while we worked to resolve the situation."

Mr Kovaleski would appear at a special sitting of the Palmerston North District Court tomorrow and was likely to face further charges, Ms Stewart said.

Police leave the scene, having arrested a man after a two-day manhunt.

Police leave the scene, having arrested a man after a two-day search. Photo: RNZ

Police said earlier that Mr Kovaleski had failed to stop for them and fled in a grey Mazda, triggering an Armed Offenders Squad call-out about 10.45am on Thursday.

Ms Stewart said at an earlier news conference on Friday that there had been warrants for his arrest related to offences "from driving offences to some dishonesty offences".

'All we want is a safe resolution'

Several streets in the suburb were cordoned off on Thursday, with schools and kindergartens in lockdown and two welfare centres set up for those blocked from their homes.

All cordons were lifted within two hours of the arrest on Friday.

Police, and Mr Kovaleski's adoptive father, had earlier pleaded for him to turn himself in.

"We encourage Caleb to give himself up to police, as all we want is a safe resolution for everyone," Ms Stewart said, earlier on Friday.

She said police had been in contact with Mr Kovaleski during their search, and had been systematically clearing the area inside the cordon.

Mr Kovaleski's adoptive father, Jim Antcliff, told RNZ during the manhunt that he had also spoken to his son.

"He seems to be in a good state of mind at the moment. He wants to resolve it peacefully."

Anxious wait for residents

About 25 people unable to return home last night took shelter at the Cloverlea Tavern, with help from Māori wardens and a local organisation, Helping Hands.

A welfare centre was also set up for residents at the Highbury Whānau Centre.

Cloverlea Kindergarten, Cloverlea School and Somerset Crescent School were all placed in lockdown on Thursday. Children were picked up later that day by their parents, or taken to the whānau centre by bus to be reunited with their families.

At Benmore Avenue, at least seven people spent last night in their cars, hoping to be let through, but police were only letting people out of the cordon - not in.

One resident, Jade Southee, who was supposed to be moving house today, said his belongings had been on the footpath since yesterday, and his dog was locked inside.

Another of those with a home inside the cordon was Lynette Ward, who said her adult son stayed inside while she stayed with her sister in town.

"He said it's quite eerie round there, there is just no one around, no lights on," Ms Ward said.

Jess Scroop said she waited with her partner and young daughter at a cordon until 2am before being told to go to the whānau centre.

She woke up about 6am today and heard she could get to her house - only to arrive at the cordon and find out that was not the case, she said.

"And there is no communication between the police and the residents, and the residents and the people helping. Everyone is ... asking everyone questions and nobody knows anything."

Police are calling on a suspected gunman to give himself up, as a Palmerston North suburb remains in lockdown for a second day.

Tania Patterson, left, from Helping Hands, and Cynthia Peek sort clothes outside the cordon. Helping Hands provided food, clothes and blankets to displaced residents. Photo: RNZ/Michael Cropp

Her partner was unable to get back home last night after work because he was not allowed through the cordon, she said.

"The doors are locked and everything like that so I guess that is all we can do."

Mayor praises community effort

Cloverlea Tavern duty manager Jahn Katene said the hotel had opened its function room to accommodate residents.

"We've got the Māori wardens here as well. They are basically helping us out. We've put on hot food and again coffee, tea.

"The people, they don't really know the full story. All they know is that they can't get back to their homes. They are just happy that we're there to give them some shelter and a warm place to sit while they are waiting."

Speaking alongside Ms Stewart at the news conference following the end of the police operation, Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith praised the resilience of the suburb's residents.

"The patience shown by the whole community and the people that were displaced was admirable. The people that have helped - through accommodation offers, medical assistance and food - [it] was outstanding."

The police are encouraging a suspected gunman to give himself up, as a Palmerston North suburb remains locked down for nearly 24 hours.

A relief tent going up in the car park of the Cloverlea Tavern. Photo: RNZ/Michael Cropp

Cloverlea, Palmerston North (highlighted in red).

Cloverlea, Palmerston North (highlighted in red) Photo: GOOGLE MAPS