4 December 2014
An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today found that Police acted professionally and were justified in the actions they took in pursuing and subsequently shooting Caleb Henry on 8 July 2013.
In releasing today’s report, Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said this was a complex incident that involved officers from four Police districts including the Waikato Armed Offenders’ Squad and the Police Negotiating Team. “The incident, from the time Mr Henry was located by Police until he was shot, lasted about four hours during which time Mr Henry travelled a distance of approximately 232km,” Sir David said.
Around 7:30pm on Sunday 7 July 2013, Mr Henry carried out a violent home invasion in Opotiki and attacked the occupants before fleeing with their vehicle, a high-powered rifle and ammunition.
Police were alerted of the home invasion and later that evening they located Mr Henry who was driving the stolen vehicle near Cambridge. Police followed and pursued Mr Henry, during which time he phoned Police from his cell phone and threatened to kill officers if they attempted to stop him.
Just after midnight, as Mr Henry drove out of Hamilton he fired a single shot from his rifle at the pursuing Armed Offenders Squad vehicles. The pursuit continued north to Auckland during which time Police attempted to stop Mr Henry by laying road spikes on multiple occasions. Mr Henry continued along the Auckland motorway and over the Harbour Bridge before coming to a stop against a concrete barrier on State Highway 1. As the Armed Offenders’ Squad vehicle came to a stop behind him the officers heard a gunshot and could see the barrel of a rifle protruding out of the driver’s side of Mr Henry’s vehicle. Police threw a stun grenade towards the vehicle at which time Mr Henry fired a second shot. One of the Armed Offenders’ Squad officers then fired at Mr Henry. When the three officers approached the vehicle they found Mr Henry unresponsive. He was given first aid and taken to hospital, where he died a short time later.
The Authority has found that Police were justified in commencing the pursuit of Mr Henry and complied with the law and Police policy during the pursuit.
“Mr Henry was suspected of committing the offences of home invasion, burglary and assault, and had threatened to shoot at officers if they attempted to stop him.
“The officers involved conducted the pursuit in a coordinated manner and took a number of steps to stop Mr Henry and ensure the safety of other motorists. These included closing petrol stations adjoining the highway along Mr Henry’s route, blocking motorway on and off-ramps, ensuring traffic lights ahead of Mr Henry remained green and setting up road signage to warn motorists of the incident,” Sir David said.
In respect of the shooting, the Authority has found that the Officer who fired at Mr Henry was justified in doing so.
“Police were faced with a dangerous situation and the officer involved genuinely believed that Mr Henry posed an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm to the officers nearby and himself.
“Although the incident ended in the death of Mr Henry, Police are to be commended for their command and control of the operation.
“The forward thinking and advance planning by Police officers involved in this incident allowed effective ongoing communication and coordination between officers despite the fact that the pursuit travelled through five Police districts, involving officers from four of them and was transmitted on multiple radio channels,” Sir David said.
Notwithstanding the overall professionalism with which the operation was conducted the Authority has highlighted some deficiencies in the use of road spikes.
In light of the issues raised in this and other cases, Police are currently reviewing their Tyre Deflation Devices policy.