The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a Police officer had legal justification to fire his rifle at a man during an incident in Nelson on 7 July 2017.
Police were conducting patrols in the Nelson area at 12.49am when they saw a vehicle driving in excess of the posted speed limit. The officers followed the vehicle for about two and a half kilometres before the driver pulled over at the end of a cul-de-sac and ran away.
A Police dog handler was called to assist and after tracking through a school and a number of residential addresses, the dog indicated that the man was hiding in a basement.
As two other officers arrived to assist with the arrest, the man threatened Police that he had a gun and was going to shoot them. The officers exited the basement, shut the door, and called for backup.
The Police dog handler stayed at the property to watch the door in case the man attempted to escape while the other two officers returned to their vehicle to arm themselves.
Shortly after the two officers returned to the dog handler’s position, the man opened the basement door and stepped out. He presented what appeared to be a firearm, pointing it at Police while continuing to threaten to shoot them. Police warned the man to drop his weapon a number of times but he failed to comply.
At 2.19am a Police officer fired a single shot at the man which penetrated his left elbow. Simultaneously, the Police dog handler deployed his dog. Police then restrained and arrested the man.
During the later Police investigation, it was established that the man did not have a firearm and had in fact brandished a bundle of kindling wood wrapped in a black singlet.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty, said “based on the threats made by the offender, Police reasonably believed that he was in possession of a firearm and it was his intention to cause grievously bodily harm or death. The Authority finds that the officer was lawfully justified in firing his rifle at the man to defend himself and his colleague from the perceived threat of death or grievous bodily harm.”
The Authority also found that the Police dog handler was justified in deploying his dog to apprehend the offender, that Police did not use excessive force during the arrest, and that Police provided appropriate medical assistance until the ambulance arrived.
The Authority completed its investigation into this incident in June 2018, but delayed the release of its public report until after the conclusion of related court proceedings in July 2018.