14 Oct 2019

Inquest hears man killed by police let down by mental health system

5:38 pm on 14 October 2019

The whānau of a man shot and killed by police in Thames in 2015 say they were let down by both the mental health service and police.

Vaughan Te Moananui.

Vaughan Te Moananui was 33 when he was shot in 2015. Photo: Supplied to RNZ

Vaughan Te Moananui, 33, who had mental health issues, was shot after confronting police and refusing to drop a rifle he was pointing at them.

The inquest into his death opened in Hamilton on Monday.

Vaughan Te Moananui had been in and out of the mental health unit and Waikato Hospital over the last few years.

On the day of his death he had been drinking and was at his sister's place with a gun.

Genevieve Simpson told Coroner Michael Robb that her brother's actions were both erratic and frightening but that he had started to calm down when police arrived.

"I grabbed my two girls and ran out the front door into the line of fire. Three armed police officers had their guns pointing at my house. There were multiple police pointing their guns in our direction. As we were running, we made it half way across the road, I heard three gunshots, I turned around to see my brother falling to the ground. Both of my two young girls, aged 4 and 7-years-old witnessed this.

She said police ignored her straight after the shooting.

"I was left walking aimlessly up and down the road with my girls following me. None of the police officers asked if we were okay, they just walked past us. A neighbour took us into his house and about 20 minutes later a policeman finally came in to talk to us and this is when I found out Vaughan had died on his way to hospital."

Vaughan Te Moananui started drinking at the age of 13, was a father at 15 and started getting into trouble with police at the same age.

He started showing signs of mental illness in his early twenties and he tried to take his own life twice.

His mother, Evelyn Simpson, said her son suffered from paranoia.

In a statement to the coroner, read by her husband Chris Simpson, she said that on his final release home, it was very difficult to get information from the hospital about her son's medication and the effects it would have on him.

She felt the whānau did not have adequate support to take care of him.

"I believe there should have been a whānau meeting of everyone involved in his care and that a care-plan was made. Since Vaughan was released I only met with the community mental health workers twice. Both visits were superficial and brief."

Genevieve Simpson agreed that there was a serious lack of information about her brother's condition and his medication from the mental health service.

"Vaughan had multiple pills to take daily, the side-effects we know about now were making him tired. We believed at the time Vaughan was being lazy. He wasn't, it was his medication.

"Vaughan also said he wanted to stop taking them [the medication] as the community mental health team were pressuring him to find work."

In her evidence Evelyn Simpson said she clearly remembers the last time she spoke to her son on the afternoon he died.

"I received a phone call from Vaughan to tell me he loved me and that I shouldn't ever forget that.

"Vaughan was basically left to his own means to survive after a long stint in the Henry Bennett Centre. There was no help applying for assistance such as housing, sickness benefit etc, he was completely left to wing it," she said.

On Tuesday the inquest will hear from health workers who dealt with Vaughan Te Moananui.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs