The Independent Police Conduct Authority has determined that Police should have abandoned a pursuit as it posed unnecessary risks, and that it was inappropriate for an officer to fire a warning shot at the ground as the driver fled on foot.
At about 10pm on 28 June 2018, Police received two calls reporting that a man was causing a disturbance outside the Tolaga Bay Inn. The man, who was known to the two responding officers, left the scene before Police arrived. A witness said 'someone' had yelled out that the man had a gun, though they were unable to confirm whether he did or not.
The officers could not locate the man so planned to follow-up with him the next day. However, while driving home, one of the officers saw the man's ute and began a pursuit.
The fleeing man rammed two Police vehicles and drove into the path of a logging truck during the 34-minute pursuit, which took place mostly on a forestry road. When the pursuit ended the man ran into the forest, followed by one of the officers who drew his pistol and fired a warning shot into the ground.
Two dog handlers searched for two hours but were unable to locate the man. He was arrested the next day in Gisborne.
The Authority determined that the officer was justified in initiating the pursuit, however he should have abandoned it when he was first rammed and the incident with the logging truck occurred. Police should also have abandoned the pursuit when the man continued attempting to ram them.
"Immediate apprehension of the man was unnecessary as Police had good reason to believe they knew who the man was and could locate him later. Leaving him to continue driving, unpursued, would have likely resulted in less risk to others" said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
The Authority also found it was inappropriate for the officer to fire a warning shot as no-one had actually seen the man with a firearm, and he did not present an immediate danger to others at the time he was running away.