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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Tauranga shooting of a man in defence of hostages justified

17 December 2020

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police were justified in shooting a man on 24 November 2019, because he posed a lethal and imminent threat to one of his daughters who he was holding hostage.

At about 2.55pm on Sunday 24 November 2019, Mr W was shot dead by Police in Tauranga. He had held his two daughters, aged six and four, hostage for the preceding 15 hours.

Police were called to the address by Mr W's partner, who had managed to escape from the house. The initial Police responders found Mr W barricaded in the wardrobe of an upstairs bedroom and holding a knife to one of his children. He swiped the knife at attending Police. They were unable to negotiate with him and made the tactical decision to withdraw. The Armed Offenders Squad, Special Tactics Group and Police negotiators all attended.

Negotiators were unable to persuade Mr W to come out, or allow his daughters out. The incident occurred on an extremely hot day in Tauranga, and by early afternoon Police received medical advice about the potentially deadly effects of the heat on the two young children, who were in an upstairs room with no ventilation. As far as Police knew, the children had not had any food or water since the incident began, even though they had left bottles of water outside the bedroom door. Mr W had twice requested Police pass food and drink up to the bedroom using a rope out the window but these requests were refused.

Concern about the health of the children in the heat, combined with Mr W's history of violence and mental health issues, led the command team to order a forced entry into the bedroom via the upstairs window and door at 2.55pm to rescue the hostages.

When the officers entered the bedroom, they saw Mr W with his arm wrapped tightly around one of the children, holding a large knife against her chest. One officer tried to taser Mr W but it had no effect. Another officer, fearing that Mr W was about to kill the child, fired a single round from his pistol, killing Mr W.

The Authority has found the command and control of the incident was in general well executed, although designating a family liaison officer would have benefited both Police and Mr W's family who were at the scene.

Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty, said "there were many commendable aspects of this operation and it is clear to us that all officers at the scene were focussed on the welfare of the children throughout the incident. However, it was the responsibility of the Incident Controller to look beyond negotiating tactics to a contingency plan to protect the wellbeing of the children until they were released or rescued. This included fully exploring all options to provide the reasonable necessities of life such as food and water. We accept that the immediate and serious threat that Mr W posed to his daughter when officers entered the bedroom justified the decision to shoot him."

Public Report

Tauranga shooting of a man in defence of hostages justified (PDF 566 KB)

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