Family says report changes nothing

By Corey Charlton, Doug Laing

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Narina Tumarae, the grandmother of Lachan Kelly-Tumarae, pictured yesterday with a photo of her deceased grandson. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Narina Tumarae, the grandmother of Lachan Kelly-Tumarae, pictured yesterday with a photo of her deceased grandson. Photo / Glenn Taylor

The mother of a Flaxmere man killed by police says "nothing has changed" with the release of an independent report into the incident which shows police were justified in their shooting.

Yesterday the Independent Police Conduct Authority released its 94-page report into the early-morning shooting of Lachan Kelly-Tumarae, 19, at Omahu, on March 28, 2011. The report found a Hawke's Bay policeman's 14-shot volley which killed him was justified because of the threats to the officer's own safety.

Mr Kelly-Tumarae's mother Mereheni Tumarae, who saw the report the day before its public release yesterday, told Hawke's Bay Today that it was always said to have been justified "so nothing has changed in that area".

Mr Kelly-Tumarae's grandmother, Narina Tumarae, described the 2 year wait for an independent report into the incident as "mentally and physically straining".

She said it had been a difficult wait to see the results of the investigation. "You're just wondering and wondering, but now we've got something physical on a piece of paper. We've got something to work with."

The shooting of her grandson came as the Flaxmere man got out of a vehicle near a State Highway 50 marae cemetery, following a 14km low-speed pursuit from Napier where he had presented a shotgun at an officer in a chance roadside encounter.

Mr Kelly-Tumarae got out of the vehicle with the gun and an ammunition belt and pointed his 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 urupa, stopping, turning and aiming at the second officer. Fearing he was about to be shot, the officer then fired a volley. Mr Kelly-Tumarae remained standing and, believing the man had not been struck, the officer fired a second round of shots.

Mr Kelly-Tumarae 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 not appear to have hit the man or his clothing.

Narina Tumarae did not agree the shooting was justified because "justified to me is different to what justified means to the police. "I don't agree personally, but that is just me because he is dead, they killed him ... Call it what you want, he is not going to come back."

She said others needed to make up their own minds about the incident. "It looks like he was a horrible kid in that report, but he was the best to us. People out there will read it and make their own judgments so it doesn't matter what I say. The report is out and that is the main thing.

"All I want [people] to know is that Lachan was a loved boy and the family loved him. I can't tell people what to say and think."

The Ministry of Justice said yesterday no decision had yet been made on whether a formal Coroner's inquest would be held.

Releasing the report, Authority chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers said a "very thorough investigation" found that the officer, whose identity was not revealed, "genuinely believed his life was under immediate threat," followed procedures and was justified in his actions. The officer has since returned to work.

However, there were other aspects of the police response that did not comply with policies or standards of good practice.

He said officers were justified in arming themselves during the pursuit, with the exception of one officer who was not certified to carry a police firearm and who, in doing so, breached policy. It was not the officer who fired the shots.

The chairman said the officer who shot Mr Kelly-Tumarae intended to incapacitate an armed offender and so remove a threat to the policeman's own life.

"Having decided to use his pistol, he continued to fire until he perceived that the immediate threat to his life had passed," Sir David said. "In those circumstances the force used was justified."

Police accept findings from IPCA inquiry

Police have accepted the IPCA's findings, including that its interaction with Lachan Kelly-Tumarae's family was not as good as it should have been and nor was its explanation of damage to his clothing following the shooting.

The officer who shot Mr Kelly-Tumarae fired 14 shots, four of which wounded him and one other appearing to have passed through his clothing without causing injury.

The damage to his clothing had since been explained to the family.

Assistant Commissioner Mike Rusbatch said it was a "quickly evolving" situation in which numerous officers risked their lives to contain Mr Kelly-Tumarae, who was armed with a shotgun.

"As the authority also found, the number of shots fired by the officer involved was justified and reasonable to ensure that the threat posed by Mr Kelly-Tumarae was contained, bearing in mind that the officer had to make a number of split-second second decisions under extreme pressure, while fearing for his own life and those of his fellow officers. That said, we are sorry that this incident ended in the tragic loss of a young man's life, and our sympathies go to his family."

Police accepted the IPCA's recommendations to improve auditing of firearms, ammunition and equipment at district level and changes had already been completed, while national standardisation of auditing and documentation processes was under way.

Work was also under way on compulsory drug and alcohol testing for officers involved in critical incidents, while issues relating to the certification of staff involved in armed incidents would be addressed through implementation of a new tactical training framework.

In May 2012 a police investigation found that the officer who shot the teenager was not criminally liable for his death.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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