Teen shooting: Was training overridden by instinct?

By Sam Hurley of Hawke's Bay Today -
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Lachan Kelly-Tumarae
Lachan Kelly-Tumarae

A coroner is concerned police officer training was overridden by instinct during the 2011 fatal shooting of a Flaxmere teenager, a court has heard.

The coroner's inquest, which began today at Hastings District Court, will be a fact finding mission into the 14-shot police volley which killed Lachan Kelly-Tumarae, 19, on March 28, 2011.

But the officers involved cannot be identified amid fears for their safety and that of their families.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard, who was tasked with assessing criminal liability during the subsequent investigation, named Operation Angler, gave evidence this morning.

The 33-year veteran officer based in Auckland said one of the officer's firearms training had lapsed and he was no longer certified to handle a Glock 9mm pistol and M4 Bushmaster rifle.

"The officer was the passenger of the vehicle that pulled up beside Mr Kelly-Tumarae."

He also told the court the other officer who parked next to Mr Kelly-Tumarae's car took an "unnecessary risk" and did not provide a "safe buffer" between the offender and the two officers in the patrol car.

Coroner Peter Ryan said he was "concerned'' officer training was "overridden by instinctive nature'' by the officers at the scene of the shooting.

Mr Kelly-Tumarae's grandmother Narina Tumarae also gave the court an insight into the behaviour of her grandson the night he was killed.

"He had a nice smile on his face - all he said was, `You alright nan, what are you doing'.''

She believed her grandson went to bed after returning home and was unaware, until later informed by police, he had left the house and taken off with her dead husband's shotgun, ammunition and her car.

"I've been trying to run it through my head, why. I've never seen him touch that gun or use that gun before.''

A number of police photographs and plans of the incident were also presented to the court and a large number of the teenager's family are present for the inquest.

Tomorrow three police officers involved in the shooting will give evidence with their identities protected from the public and media.

The coroner said the officers had reasonable grounds for concern "for their safety and the safety of their families''. The threat of physical harm or intimidation took precedence over the public's right to open justice and the press' right to free publication, he said.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority released its 94-page report into the shooting in October last year.

It found the officer's fatal 14-shot volley was justified because of threats to the officer's own safety.

The report found, the shooting came as Mr Kelly-Tumarae exited a vehicle near a State Highway 50 marae cemetery, following a 14km low-speed pursuit from Napier after he presented a shotgun at an officer in a chance roadside encounter.

Mr Kelly-Tumarae left the vehicle with the gun and an ammunition belt before he pointed the weapon at an officer in the passenger's seat of a patrol car parked alongside.

An officer from a second vehicle 14m away then drew his pistol, and called "armed police," to which the wanted man responded by running towards the cemetery, stopping, turning and aiming at the second officer.

Fearing he was about to be shot, the officer fired a volley. Mr Kelly-Tumarae remained standing and, believing the man had not been struck, the officer fired a second round of shots.

The 19-year-old fell to the ground, and was rushed by ambulance to Hawke's Bay Hospital in Hastings, where he died soon afterwards.

Investigations revealed the officer fired 14 shots, four wounding the man and another appearing to have passed through Mr Kelly-Tumarae's clothing without causing injury. The other nine bullets did not appear to have struck him or his clothing.

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