Manawatu Standard

Shooter says he never intended to kill officer

- Catrin Owen

A man who fired 10 shots at an Auckland constable before killing another police officer has denied pulling the trigger felt good.

Eli Bob Sauni Epiha, 25, has admitted murdering Constable Matthew Hunt with a military-style semi-automatic rifle, and dangerous driving causing injury to a member of the public on June 19, 2020.

But he denies attempting to murder Constable David Goldfinch.

Natalie Bracken, who denies being an accessory after the fact of murder by driving Epiha away from the scene, told her arresting officer she was being threatened with a gun.

Both Bracken and Epiha are on trial at the High Court at Auckland.

Goldfinch previously told the court Epiha was driving in an ‘‘erratic’’ manner before crashing into a vehicle, injuring a man.

As an unarmed Goldfinch exited the police car to approach the crash scene, Epiha opened fire, shooting at him 10 times.

Yesterday, Epiha told the court he received a phone call on June 19 from an associate in distress.

‘‘I was supposed to be heading up north, but I went to pick up some guns to arm up to scare these people away from one of my family houses.’’

He went to an address in Massey and picked up two guns in a bag.

As he was driving down Reynella Dr, he had to brake suddenly when a rubbish truck pulled out and he ‘‘smashed’’ into the back of a parked car, he said.

He tried to ‘‘gap it’’, but saw a police officer ‘‘rushing up pretty quick’’.

‘‘I reached back into the car and got the Norinco,’’ Epiha said.

He told the court he told Goldfinch to leave and ‘‘f... off’’.

‘‘[Goldfinch] was flexing. He was being aggressive.’’

Epiha said he fired a warning shot.

‘‘If I wanted to kill him I would have killed him straight away instead of firing a warning shot,’’ Epiha said.

He told the court he took the gun, holding it with one hand, and aimed it down at the officer, who was shielding behind a four-wheel drive.

‘‘He started running and I remember firing one shot, not really at him, but towards his direction to keep him running forward,’’ Epiha said.

He wanted to get away to scare the gang members away from his family house, he said.

‘‘I wasn’t trying to take him out . . . if I wanted to kill him I could have killed him right there. It was never my intention to kill him.’’

Epiha denied threatenin­g any residents of Reynella Drive, including Bracken.

Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey asked why Epiha didn’t stop pulling the trigger after firing the first shot.

‘‘You kept pulling the trigger because it felt good, didn’t it Mr Epiha? The one thing you wanted to do that day was to kill a police officer?,’’ Dickey asked.

Epiha denied he wanted to kill anyone that day.

‘‘There was nothing good about anything that happened,’’ he said.

The defendant also said he never aimed at the officers and was very ‘‘stressed out’’. He was practising mindfulnes­s and breathing strategies as he waited for Bracken to drive him away.

He said Bracken looked familiar, but they were strangers.

Epiha told Bracken’s lawyer, Adam Couchman, he waited by the silver Mazda while Bracken obtained the keys.

Couchman asked why Epiha didn’t just wait to hand himself in.

‘‘I needed to get the guns back to the owner and needed to say my final goodbyes,’’ he replied.

The trial, before a jury and Justice Geoffrey Venning, continues.

 ?? TVNZ/STUFF ?? Eli Epiha, right, denies attempting to murder Constable David Goldfinch, above. Goldfinch says it was like a ‘‘hail of bullets’’ as he was being shot at by Epiha in Massey, Auckland.
TVNZ/STUFF Eli Epiha, right, denies attempting to murder Constable David Goldfinch, above. Goldfinch says it was like a ‘‘hail of bullets’’ as he was being shot at by Epiha in Massey, Auckland.
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