The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a Police officer was not justified in shooting Mr Turia outside a house in Papatoetoe on 25 February 2021.
The Authority has found, on the balance of probabilities, that the officer’s action in shooting Mr Turia was an excessive and unreasonable use of force. However, it has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove this to the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt.
Police attended the scene at 5.45pm after Mr Turia fired a shot through the living room window of the house next door. They attempted to get Mr Turia to surrender over the next couple of hours.
At about 8.20pm, Police began appealing to Mr Turia using a loudspeaker. He immediately became more agitated, and one or two minutes after the loudspeaker appeal commenced, he walked out the front door of the house and onto the driveway holding his loaded shotgun over his shoulder.
An AOS officer was stationed at the rear of the driveway, about 25 metres away from Mr Turia. As soon as the officer saw Mr Turia, he challenged him to drop his weapon, and then shot him three times. About two seconds elapsed from the time Mr Turia would have become visible to the officer to when he was shot.
We accept that circumstances could have quickly changed and the threat posed by Mr Turia could have easily escalated and required a lethal response, but at the point when the officer fired that was not the case; Mr Turia had walked slowly out onto the driveway with his firearm over his shoulder to investigate the source of noise from the loudspeaker. At that time the immediate risk he posed to others was low to negligible, albeit that the consequences if that risk had materialised might well have been very serious.
“The officer gave Mr Turia no time at all to comply with the request that he drop his weapon”, said Judge Doherty, the Chair of the Authority. “He had the option of waiting for a response from Mr Turia and he should have done so.”
The Authority is confronting a number of cases where these difficult issues arise, and the law is largely silent on how self-defence applies to the use of force by officers specifically trained to attend these critical incidents. The fundamental question that needs to be addressed is a policy one – to what degree of risk should officers be exposed before they are justified in pulling the trigger?
Police criticise the Authority’s view of the degree of risk posed to Police by Mr Turia. They also argue that if there is a risk of death or serious injury to an officer, that justifies the deployment of lethal force. The law is silent on that issue. On one view, any risk to an officer’s safety is enough to justify deployment of lethal force. At the other end of the spectrum, some would argue that Police are not justified in deploying lethal force unless and until there is a high probability of an offender deploying lethal force themselves. In our view, the threshold lies somewhere between these two extremes.
It is our strong belief that an issue of this significance, which is presenting with increasing regularity, requires robust policy debate and greater legal clarity. It should not be a matter for Police themselves to determine, because this would lead us inexorably down the path that some other jurisdictions have taken, with a permissive approach to the use of lethal force by officers.
Decision to shoot Tangaru-Noere Turia not justified (PDF 509 KB)