The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a Police officer’s actions in firing three shots at Savey Suos in Whanganui on 6 January 2017 were lawful and proportionate.
Mr Suos’ partner had called Police at about 7pm to report a domestic incident, and within ten minutes two officers arrived at the address. After speaking with Mr Suos’ partner, the officers approached Mr Suos who was standing in the doorway of a sleep-out on the property.
When the officers advised Mr Suos that he was under arrest, Mr Suos pulled out a firearm which was concealed inside his jacket and pointed it at the officers. The officers immediately retreated to their car, then drove a short distance away and notified the Police Central Communications Centre (CentComms) of the incident.
The Whanganui Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) attended the incident and decided to cordon and contain the address. Shortly after 8pm, as the AOS officers were getting into position around the property, they saw Mr Suos step out of the sleep-out. The AOS officers shouted at Mr Suos that they were armed Police, but Mr Suos did not respond to commands that he put his hands in the air.
Mr Suos walked towards one of the AOS officers and raised a sawn-off shotgun towards him. In response, the AOS officer fired three times from his Bushmaster rifle. Mr Suos was struck by two bullets and died in hospital later that evening.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty, said: “Each time the AOS officer fired at Mr Suos, he had reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Suos posed an immediate threat of serious harm or death. Therefore the AOS officer was acting in defence of either himself or others (or both) on each occasion and his actions in shooting were proportionate to the threat Mr Suos posed to the lives of the officers.”
The Authority found that it was appropriate for Police to deploy the Whanganui AOS to this incident, and that Police provided Mr Suos with appropriate and timely medical assistance.
However the Authority also determined that there was a lack of communication between the CentComms shift commander and the AOS commander. As a result the shift commander did not know that the AOS had arrived at the scene, and only learned of it after Mr Suos was shot. The Authority noted that these communication issues did not affect the outcome of this incident.