20 Aug 2020

Police officers who fired 35 shots after car chase justified - IPCA

2:42 pm on 20 August 2020

Police officers who fired 35 shots at a man, hitting him twice after a second car chase in Christchurch last year, were justified in doing so.

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Photo: 123RF

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found the force used was necessary, proportionate and reasonable in the circumstances, in which the man had shot at police on two separate occasions.

Authority chair, Judge Colin Doherty said the man used lethal force to resist police, posing a risk to the officers and to members of the public.

"Officers had little option but to respond, using their firearms to overcome and incapacitate the man," he said.

However, some officers breached police policy during the 26 February 2019 incident by not reporting they were armed and not wearing ballistic body armour.

Three days earlier, police had pursued a car in the Christchurch area, but abandoned the pursuit when the occupants fired shots at police vehicles. None of the occupants were apprehended at the time.

On 26 February, an officer saw a man in the same car and another pursuit began, with police successfully spiking the car. The man continued driving at a low speed, waving a shotgun out of the car window before stopping in a residential area and getting out of the car.

During the exchange that followed, the man fired two shots at officers. Three police officers then fired a total of 35 shots between them, hitting the man twice. No-one else was injured.

A police dog was used to hold the man's arm once he was on the ground, and he was handcuffed. Officers then immediately provided first aid, and the man was then taken to Christchurch Hospital.

The authority found that police were justified in pursuing the man and spiking his car. They were justified in firing at him to defend themselves and others.

Judge Doherty said use of the police dog was also justified as it enabled officers to carry out the arrest.

Police have acknowledged the finding.

Canterbury district commander superintendent John Price said a debrief was held following the incident, and staff have received further training around wearing ballistic body armour and appropriate reporting when armed.

He said every day police were in the community and put in high-pressure situations, and he was proud of the officers' actions when they were faced with a dynamic and dangerous situation.

"These officers were simply ensuring the safety of the community they serve.

"This was an unpredictable incident and the actions of the attending officers are something the whole community can be proud of as their sole intent was to ensure their own safety and the safety of the community."

Price said any attack on police was "an attack on us all" and he was grateful those involved responded in a justified manner and were not seriously harmed.