The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a Police officer’s action in firing once at Christopher Brown in Porirua on 26 February 2017 was lawful and proportionate in the circumstances.
Police were called to a house in Waikanae at about 11pm because Mr Brown, in a suicidal state, had violently assaulted his ex-partner and damaged her home. Police were told that Mr Brown had left the address in her vehicle, armed with a large knife. When Police arrived at the address, they were further told that Mr Brown had an air rifle with him.
Police started to search for Mr Brown. Due to the weapons he was thought to be carrying, his agitated state, and his history of violence towards Police, several officers chose to arm themselves while actively searching for him.
Just after 12:20am, Mr Brown was seen by an officer driving on State Highway 1 north of Porirua. This officer started to discretely follow Mr Brown. A second officer also started to follow Mr Brown. At Mana, Mr Brown turned off State Highway 1 into a service lane. After a short pursuit, Mr Brown’s vehicle collided with a building, and the two officers stopped their Police cars close behind to block him in.
Mr Brown immediately got out of his vehicle, holding a machete. He walked quickly and aggressively towards one of the officers, who had started to get out of his Police car. Mr Brown raised the machete as he advanced, and would not respond to the officer’s commands to drop the machete.
When Mr Brown was approximately one metre away from the seated officer, and close enough to strike him, the officer fired his Glock pistol once, hitting Mr Brown in his right shoulder. Mr Brown immediately fell to the ground.
The whole incident took only a few seconds.
Despite medical aid being given by Police and ambulance staff, Mr Brown died while being transported to Wellington Hospital.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty, said: “I am satisfied that when he fired at Mr Brown, the officer concerned reasonably feared that Mr Brown’s concerted advance while wielding the machete, would result in either serious injury to him or his death and that the officer acted to defend himself.
“The speed and aggressive nature of Mr Brown’s attack severely restricted the options available to the officer to defend himself. Attempts to convince Mr Brown to drop the machete were unsuccessful. The officer’s action in firing at Mr Brown was proportionate to the imminent threat that Mr Brown posed.”