No option but arrest without delay, police trial told

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Judges Gavel
Judges Gavel

A policeman involved in the early-morning arrest of wanted man Gregory McPeake says safety meant it "wasn't an option" for the man to be able to leave where he had been cornered in a Westshore Beach car park.

Constable Andrew Chantrey told a Napier District Court jury yesterday that, based on information available, 53-year-old Mr McPeake represented a threat of grievous bodily harm or death to others if he was not taken into custody "without delay".

Giving evidence late on the third day of a trial in which four fellow officers deny separate charges of assault with a weapon related to the attempts to arrest the man who apparently refused to get out of his two-door Honda SUV, Mr Chantrey said he believed Mr McPeake would have been a danger not only to police but also himself and the public if he were able to leave.

Mr McPeake died at the scene soon after being removed from the vehicle, but Judge Phillip Cooper, Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk, and defence counsel Susan Hughes QC, Jonathan Krebs, Doug Rishworth and Rachael Adams agree there was no "causal link" between the death and anything done by any of the officers.

The issues are about whether the officers' force was excessive or proper in the circumstances.

The court had been told Mr McPeake had travelled to Hawke's Bay earlier in the week and had been wanted since a short visit to his parents' Hastings home during which he attacked his 76-year-old father with a cosh about 6.15pm on March 12, 2015.

The arrest was mounted after an officer found the vehicle in the car park six-and-a-half hours later, by which time police believed their "subject" was a "large" man who had been drinking, could have been suicidal and armed with a crossbow, although he had no criminal record.

They didn't know he was 179kg and had a heart condition.

Mr Chantrey was one of six officers sent on foot across the car park, accompanied by dogs and all with OC spray canisters and Tasers to immobilise the man if necessary.

One carried a Bushmaster rifle, another with a loaded pistol.

Glenn Baker, acting section sergeant at Napier on the night, told the court, officers assembled in a street a few hundred metres from the car and were briefed before a group headed towards the vehicle, Mr Baker in a patrol car using its lights to illuminate the scene.

Mr Baker said, as they neared the vehicle, he could see the frame of a person and used a loud hailer: "Driver in silver car. This is the police. Get out of the vehicle. Show me your hands."

He said he made further calls, an estimated 15-20 times, with no response other than the "subject" turning to look at him.

Mr Baker was sure the man was aware what was happening.

He said he saw the man lean down in the vehicle, and thought the man may have been "accessing a weapon".

Several times the man also put a container to his mouth, appearing to be drinking or inhaling.

The man turned up the radio in the vehicle and, according to other evidence, lit a cigarette.

Police then used bolt cutters to smash the windows of the vehicle, and the man was sprayed and tasered.

He pulled the Taser probes out and struggled with officers, and the dogs, before he was forced out of the vehicle, falling to the ground and becoming unresponsive as police tried to cuff his arms and legs.

He died despite officers' first aid and paramedic attention.

Earlier yesterday, the policing by the accused officers in careers stretching to more than 20 years was praised by the night's area commander, who was based in Hastings at the time.

The accolades were delivered by Sgt Glenn Burrell, who spoke of two longer-serving officers as the best he'd come across in their roles, and one was "well beyond his years" in the approach to the job.

(Proceeding)

- Hawkes Bay Today

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