The Independent Police Conduct Authority released a report today finding that two Police officers who shot Shane Shortcliffe on 28 April 2015, while was he was under a house in Manurewa, Auckland, were justified in doing so.
The Authority completed its investigation into this incident in June 2016, but delayed the release of its public report until after the conclusion of related court proceedings in April 2017.
At about 9.46am on 28 April 2015, two CIB officers saw Mr Shortcliffe in a car in Manurewa. Police had been searching for Mr Shortcliffe for five months. He was wanted on 25 serious drugs and firearms charges.
Police believed Mr Shortcliffe would be likely to be carrying a firearm and armed themselves accordingly.
A short time later a Police dog handler and his dog tracked Mr Shortcliffe to the basement area of a residential address on Mahia Road.
The dog handler decided to send his dog into the basement to clear the area.
When the dog handler thought he heard a voice coming from under the house he crawled into the basement.
Using the light attached to his Glock pistol, the dog handler saw his dog backing away from a man. Believing the man was Mr Shortcliffe, the dog handler commanded his dog to bite.
Mr Shortcliffe then pointed a pistol at the dog handler. Believing he was going to be shot, the dog handler shuffled into a firing position and fired two shots at Mr Shortcliffe. Mr Shortcliffe fired one shot in response.
When shots were fired, a second officer crawled under the house to support the dog handler. Both officers then repeatedly called for the man to put the gun down. When Mr Shortcliffe pointed his gun at the second officer, the second officer fired one shot at him.
After about 15 minutes, fearing for the safety of their colleagues, officers outside the house smashed a hole in the wall. The dog handler and his dog managed to escape. The second officer remained in the basement with Mr Shortcliffe for a further 20 minutes before other officers pulled him out.
About an hour later, Mr Shortcliffe surrendered and came out from under the house. He had gunshot wounds to his chest and upper arm and dog bite injuries on his lower body. First aid was immediately provided and he was transferred to hospital.
“Once the officers were under the house and confronted by Mr Shortcliffe, in a dark, low-ceilinged basement, their only realistic tactical option was to use their firearms. Mr Shortcliffe presented a very real risk of death or serious bodily harm to the officers. In the circumstances, both officers were justified in shooting the man”, said Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers.
The Authority also found that there were several omissions by those who were in command of the incident. The primary one being that the officers trapped in the basement with Mr Shortcliffe were not kept updated. “The second officer, in particular, was in a very vulnerable position for a significant period of time. Both officers should have been advised that help was on the way and been given instructions about what to do in the meantime. The absence of command resulted in field staff making decisions that could have put themselves and their colleagues at unnecessary risk of harm”, said Sir David.