The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer used a dangerous technique to take Mr Tuhi to the ground during his arrest in Levin on 21 December 2021. Mr Tuhi, 67 years old, suffered serious injuries to his head and neck, and died the following day.
Mr Tuhi had parked in the Levin Cosmopolitan Club carpark before going to a nearby bar. He later returned to his vehicle, intoxicated.
He became angry at a club member who parked next to his vehicle. When the man tried to get away from him, Mr Tuhi pushed him and ripped his shirt.
A club employee called Police, telling them Mr Tuhi was very aggressive, intoxicated, refused to leave, and had assaulted one of their members. An officer arrived and attempted to communicate with Mr Tuhi. He was unaware Mr Tuhi was hearing impaired.
Mr Tuhi pushed the officer in the chest twice, while trying to get past him to get closer to the club member. The officer told Mr Tuhi he was under arrest for assault, which the Authority found to be reasonable.
The officer placed one handcuff on Mr Tuhi but Mr Tuhi did not freely give him his second hand. The officer decided to take Mr Tuhi to ground, to restrain him. He crouched down and looped his right arm around Mr Tuhi’s leg while maintaining hold of Mr Tuhi’s left hand. The officer did not realise the club employee had taken hold of Mr Tuhi’s free hand, in an effort to assist.
The officer lifted Mr Tuhi’s leg upwards and forwards, off the ground. Mr Tuhi fell at a steep angle and hit the asphalt headfirst. With both hands held, Mr Tuhi was unable to break his fall.
The Authority found the officer was justified in taking Mr Tuhi to the ground, however the technique he used was inappropriate and dangerous.
When the officer realised Mr Tuhi was injured, he responded quickly, ensuring he was given immediate medical care.
“The officer’s decision to take Mr Tuhi to ground, using this inappropriate technique, had tragic, albeit unintended, consequences. We acknowledge the death of Mr Tuhi as a result of this incident has been distressing for all those involved,” said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.