6 September 2016
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that two Police officers were justified in shooting Pera Smiler in Wakefield Street, Upper Hutt on 8 September 2015, following an armed confrontation.
At about 12:39pm, Police started to receive multiple 111 emergency calls about a man firing a rifle inside Upper Hutt McDonald’s. Police were told that the man was “shooting at people” and had “already shot someone.”
Officers in the Hutt Valley area immediately armed themselves and went towards Upper Hutt town centre, where McDonald’s was located. It was a weekday lunchtime, and the town centre was busy. Police did not know Mr Smiler’s identity or intentions. Their priority was to locate, contain and disarm the ‘active shooter.’
Mr Smiler fired twice at responding Police from the rear entrance of McDonald’s. One of these shots narrowly missed the Upper Hutt acting sergeant, who was advancing with other officers towards McDonald’s.
An Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) officer and an AOS dog handler were off-duty and in Upper Hutt when they independently heard about the unfolding incident. They realised that the situation was too serious to wait for a formal AOS deployment, and that their specialist skills were immediately required. They armed themselves, the AOS dog handler collected his Police dog, and they drove separately to the scene.
The Upper Hutt acting sergeant confronted Mr Smiler outside McDonald’s in Wakefield Street. He aimed his Bushmaster M4 rifle at Mr Smiler, and repeatedly challenged him to drop his firearm. Over the next ten minutes, the acting sergeant kept talking to Mr Smiler, directing him to surrender. Mr Smiler was agitated, aggressive and would not comply. Members of the public were trapped in the surrounding shops, unable to escape. Much of this confrontation, and the ensuing events, were captured on cell phone footage and CCTV.
Meanwhile, the AOS officer and the AOS dog handler, with his Police dog, arrived at the same cordon point on Main Street, and started running towards McDonald’s. When they arrived at the corner of Wakefield Street, they saw Mr Smiler standing in the middle of the street with his back to them.
As he turned to face the two AOS officers, Mr Smiler raised the barrel of the rifle towards them. The AOS officer feared that Mr Smiler was about to shoot them, and fired twice at Mr Smiler. Simultaneously, the Upper Hutt acting sergeant, also fearing for the lives of the two AOS officers, fired once at Mr Smiler. Mr Smiler died of his gunshot wounds at the scene.
Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said: “The Police response to this incident was justified, immediate and effective. The Police officers who armed themselves and went towards Upper Hutt McDonald’s did so at great personal risk, in order to protect the public. They believed that people in the restaurant had been shot. I acknowledge the bravery and professionalism of all the officers who responded on that day.”
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