New era of gang warfare
Car chase shootout Three dead Kids in firing line
Police returned fire from their moving vehicle as a fleeing gunman leaned out his car window to unload another hail of bullets.
The man, who ‘‘did not want to be caught’’, had earlier sprayed police with fire from a semiautomatic weapon during a chase in Tauranga, police said yesterday.
On Thursday evening that man was shot dead by police after he fired upon them when they attempted to stop his vehicle as part of their investigation into this week’s double homicide near McLaren Falls.
Later yesterday, police arrested a 25-year-old Bay of Plenty man in relation to that same homicide at a New Brighton property in Christchurch. He would appear in court in ‘‘due course’’, police said.
Bay of Plenty district commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said the man police shot dead was a motivated offender who did not want to get caught.
At a press conference yesterday morning, McGregor said the incident unfolded when police noticed a vehicle wanted in relation to the McLaren Falls homicide at 7.46pm on Thursday.
Police followed the vehicle and attempted to stop it but the driver, who was the only person in the vehicle, failed to stop.
Then in Carmichael Rd in Tauranga, the driver leaned out of the car door and fired a volley of shots at the police vehicle.
McGregor said the driver fired 15-20 shots. Police believed it was a semi-automatic weapon due to the number of shots fired in quick succession. ‘‘At one stage, he actually stopped the vehicle, got out and took deliberate aim at the police vehicle and fired another volley of shots.’’
The vehicle then fled towards State Highway 2, in the direction of the Tauranga city centre, and more shots were fired from the moving vehicle. McGregor said police returned fire and the man was wounded. ‘‘He gradually stopped and went to the side of the road.’’
Police could see the driver slumped forwards when they approached the vehicle and called for medical assistance. He was later pronounced dead.
McGregor said police cars had been struck by bullets on several occasions during the police chase.
The chase happened at low speeds with the fleeing driver travelling at 40kmh and slowing to fire at pursuing vehicles.
Police pulled back 40-100 metres from the vehicle as it was deemed too dangerous to intervene.
McGregor said the incident was not connected to the spate of earlier shootings that have occurred around the Bay of Plenty.
The chase lasted about six minutes.
‘‘This was quite a traumatic event for the officers involved.’’
Those officers now have a standdown period of 10 days and would receive welfare counselling services, he said.
McGregor said no members of the public were injured during the incident. But he said there were a number of people around at the time of the incident.
It was a ‘‘very dangerous situation’’.
But McGregor also reassured members of the public that they were safe. ‘‘We are talking about one motivated offender here who did not want to be caught.’’
The driver from Thursday night’s incident is yet to be formally identified. McGregor said that identification process was to take place yesterday.
The McLaren Falls homicide investigation was continuing and police were following positive lines of inquiry, he said.
Once the driver had been identified, police would be able to ascertain whether or not he was involved in the homicide which left Paul Lasslett, 44, and Nick Littlewood, 32, dead.
McGregor also said police were working very hard to target gangrelated crime in the area.
Speaking to Radio NZ yesterday, Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell said that although Tauranga was currently in the headlines, gang violence and drugs were national issues.
At this stage in Tauranga, this was ‘‘gang on gang’’, the community were not involved, and police were working hard to contain it, he said.
Fortunately no members of the public were injured on Thursday but Powell said there was concern that at some point there would be ‘‘collateral damage’’.
He said crime had been going on for some time in Tauranga and they were ‘‘deeply concerned’’. ‘‘This is a national issue, this is not just a Tauranga issue right now.’’
The incident on Thursday night forced the closure of a major Tauranga road.
‘‘Due to a police incident, SH2 is closed between Bethlehem roundabout and Cameron Rd. Please expect delays and use an alternate route,’’ the New Zealand Transport Agency said in a statement.
Yesterday morning, NZTA released another statement saying some closures were expected to remain in place ‘‘well into the day’’.
SH2 remained closed between the Waihi Rd off-ramp and Cameron Rd yesterday. Takitimu Drive however had reopened.
NZTA advised motorists to avoid unnecessary travel, or consider working from home where possible and to also expect delays.
Detours were in place. NZTA advised city-bound traffic from Bethlehem to turn left on to Waihi Rd, turn left on to SH2 ramp for Takitimu Drive north or continue on Waihi Rd and turn right on to Cameron Rd for SH29A south.
East-bound traffic should turn right on to Waihi Rd from Cambridge Rd, turn left on to SH2 ramp for Takitimu Drive north or continue on Waihi Rd and turn right on to Cameron Rd for SH29A south.
People travelling from Paeroa northward are encouraged to consider using State Highway 1 and State Highway 29, or State Highway 27 and State Highway 29 over the Kaimais.
Police investigate the scene of the shooting yesterday.
State Highway 2 remained cordoned off yesterday following the shooting.
At left: A man was shot dead by police after he fired upon them when they attempted to stop a vehicle as part of their investigation into this week’s double homicide.
Superintendent Andy McGregor said the officers involved were left distressed after the incident.