New era of gang war­fare

Car chase shootout Three dead Kids in fir­ing line

Waikato Times - - Front Page -

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.

DOMINICO ZA­P­ATA/STUFF

Po­lice in­ves­ti­gate the scene of the shoot­ing yes­ter­day.

State High­way 2 re­mained cor­doned off yes­ter­day fol­low­ing the shoot­ing.

DANIEL HINES/ SUNLIVE

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.

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