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Fatal Police shooting of Shargin Stephens in Rotorua

July 2017

The Independent Police Conduct Authority released a report today finding that a Police officer was justified in fatally shooting Shargin Stephens on Te Ngae Road in Rotorua, on 14 July 2016, after Mr Stephens threatened Police and members of the public with a long-handled slasher.

At the time of this incident, Mr Stephens was on electronically-monitored bail at his home. Just after midday, he cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet.

At approximately 12:45pm, Mr Stephens left his home and threw a weight at a passing Police car. The officer stopped to speak to Mr Stephens, but Mr Stephens attacked the Police car with a long-handled slasher, breaking several windows.

This attack and most of the ensuing events were captured on cell phone footage and CCTV, which have been viewed by the Authority.

The officer was able to drive away, and made an emergency radio call for assistance. He then followed Mr Stephens, who was walking towards a populated industrial area with the slasher.

Frontline officers, including Police dog handlers, immediately went to intercept and disarm Mr Stephens. The first two officers to arrive were armed with Tasers and confronted Mr Stephens near the driveway to a mechanic’s workshop. Mr Stephens lunged at the officers with the slasher, before running down the driveway.

The officers chased after Mr Stephens, who turned and threatened them before attacking a Police dog van. One officer fired his Taser twice at Mr Stephens without effect, while the other officer used pepper spray in a last-ditch attempt to stop Mr Stephens from running into the workshop.

Several officers, including two dog handlers, chased Mr Stephens into the workshop. Police again attempted to taser Mr Stephens, but he escaped through the workshop reception area and ran back onto the road.

An officer armed with a Bushmaster M4 rifle saw Mr Stephens running towards the roundabout on Te Ngae Road and sprinted after him, yelling at him to stop and drop his weapon. The officer wanted to capture Mr Stephens’ attention because he was worried that Mr Stephens was heading towards a busy shopping centre on the other side of the roundabout. It was a weekday lunchtime during school holidays, and a number of people were standing in the carpark, watching events unfold.

As Mr Stephens crossed the northbound lanes of Te Ngae Road, he threatened the driver of a vehicle with the slasher. He then ran down the central grassed median, before turning to confront the armed officer.

Mr Stephens started walking towards the officer and, despite being challenged to drop his weapon, he raised the slasher into a striking position. The officer believed that he couldn’t retreat quickly enough to avoid being struck down, but he also determined that he couldn’t leave the public unprotected. When Mr Stephens was approximately five metres away, the officer fired at him twice. Mr Stephens was taken to hospital but died 12 days later from his gunshot wounds.

Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said: “This incident was fast-paced, and took place in a busy urban environment. Many workers and bystanders were exposed to the threat posed by Mr Stephens, who behaved irrationally and with extreme aggression. Repeated attempts to stop Mr Stephens were unsuccessful. The officer who shot Mr Stephens was justified in doing so not only to protect himself, but also to protect the public.”

Public Report

Fatal Police shooting of Shargin Stephens in Rotorua (PDF 591 KB)
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