Three inquiries after police kill man (+video)

By Jarrod Booker, Edward Gay

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More than 30 investigators and specialist police are working on a homicide inquiry after a man was fatally shot by police yesterday.

Police tonight said the Police Complaints Authority would oversee the criminal investigation as part of its own separate inquiry. Police are also conducting an inquiry on behalf of the coroner.

In a release, head of the Canterbury Police Superintendent Sandra Manderson also denied witness reports that the 37-year-old man had his hands by his pockets and did not appear to be carrying anything when he was killed.

She said the man was carrying a hammer which he had used to smash up cars on the corner of Trent Street and later Stanmore Roads.

An officer approached him after he broke a car window and "the man advanced on the police officer with a hammer and was shot after being warned", Ms Manderson said.

Ms Manderson said the officer fired several shots from his police-issue 9mm Glock pistol, but the victim was hit only twice.

The man died instantly from a bullet wound to the chest and took another bullet in his leg.

She said one of three officers present checked the man immediately after the shooting and an ambulance arrived within nine minutes.

The man, resident in Christchurch but from the North Island, died despite efforts to resuscitate him after the shooting.

The man's body has been removed from the scene of the shooting for a post-mortem examination but Stanmore Road remains closed while police conduct a scene examination.

Stanmore Rd residents Amanda Duke and Kieran Cross earlier told Newstalk ZB they had just arrived home in their car when they saw the shooting take place about 20 metres away.

"We pulled into the driveway and there were two men standing there not moving. Then one was shot, he had his hands by his sides at the time," said Mr Cross.

Mr Cross said the dead man did not appear to be holding any weapons and his hands were by his pockets. The pair said they heard what sounded like clicks at the time of the shooting and initially thought it was a taser gun.

Mr Cross said it did not appear that police provided the man with medical assistance.

"It didn't seem like it was handled properly, especially if a man was shot. He was never checked to see if he was alive or needed any treatment, or to confirm that he was dead or anything," said Mr Cross.

He said he was shocked when police said the man died half an hour later. He said it looked like he had died more-or-less straight away.

Ms Duke also said police did not check if the man was all right and both said it was about 15 minutes before an ambulance arrived.

St John Ambulance said there was no delay in its response.

A spokesperson said the 111 call for an emergency ambulance response was received by the Southern Emergency Ambulance Communications Centre at 8.38pm.

Details of the emergency, including the location and the patient's condition were taken in accordance with normal procedures.

The spokesperson said an ambulance was on the road by 8.41pm and arrived at the scene within six minutes.

Police say the officer who fatally shot the man feared for his life.

Ms Manderson said at a press conference this morning that the threats made to the policeman were "serious enough" for a shooting to take place.

"Obviously very serious indeed. Obviously (the man) was relatively close (to the police officer) because he feared for his life."

Ms Manderson said she did not know how many shots had been fired.

A resident of Stanmore Road told nzherald.co.nz she heard four bangs that sounded like balloons popping.

Soon afterwards, police cars turned up and cordoned off the section of road, she said.

"I went downstairs to look at what was going on. The police had cordoned off the road and were telling people to go back inside," said the resident, who asked not to be named.

Neighbours were out on the street chatting and asking each other what was happening last night, she said.

There are still police cars in the area. Looking out of her window she was able to count six this morning.

"It makes me feel a bit scared. I've never heard gun shots before. It freaked me out pretty badly," she said.

This morning police have put up a green tent in the middle of the road over what she believes to be the body.

Ms Manderson said a homicide investigation involving a "considerable number of officers" was underway.

Two independent investigators from the Police Complaints Authority are travelling from Wellington to Christchurch to look into the shooting.

Police have spoken to the parents of the man in the North Island, but have not yet formally identified him.

The original calls to police about the man were for a domestic incident.

The man left the flat, walked down the road and began smashing up a car. The man had a hammer in his hand, but it was unclear if he had any other weapons.

A friend of the man said his family was "going though hell".

The woman told Newstalk ZB Watson she could not justify the man's actions and that he probably paid the consequences.

But she said the man's family were in shock and what people said could be very hurtful to them.

The woman said the man came from a good family and was brought up the same way as his siblings, who were all fine, contributing people.

Police are not releasing any details about the policeman who shot the man. The firearm used by the policeman is believed to be a Glock pistol.

The officer would not be working for a while, but had not been stood down "at this stage".

She said she'd spoken to the officer involved last night but he hadn't offered an explanation for his actions. "He was okay," she said of his emotional state.

Asked if she backed the actions of the officer, Ms Manderson said: "We are doing an investigation".

She said she could not comment on whether the use of non-lethal alternatives such as a taser might have been more suitable as she was not there.

"Of course it would be much preferable if the person wasn't dead."

The Taser trial ended on 31 August, when they were removed from police pending a decision on introducing them permanently. They were never used in Christchurch.

Earlier this week, Christchurch police were criticised over an email being circulated which stated that any people armed with weapons such as knives should be shot.

"It's certainly unfortunate (the shooting) happened, but it's got no relationship to the email whatsoever," Ms Manderson said.

A number of witnesses to the shooting have been spoken to, and others will be spoken to today.

- with NEWSTALK ZB and NZPA

Recent shootings by police

* HAIDAR EBBADI MAHDI in Auckland, August 2004:

Mahdi was shot dead while holding his wife in a headlock with a knife.

Three police officers found Mahdi, 37, in a "distressed state" at his house, brandishing a carving knife. The officers told him to put it down. He refused, then advanced on the trio.

One of the police used pepper spray but it did little to subdue Mr Mahdi, said Detective Inspector Steve Rutherford at the time of the shooting.

Mr Mahdi then attacked one of the police, inflicting "reasonably serious" stab wounds to the arm, he said.

Mr Rutherford said the injured officer and his colleagues went into a kitchen area and closed the door.

"Within seconds they heard the woman in the room screaming ... They made a decision to re-enter the room."

They found Mr Mahdi with his wife in a "throttle hold".

Bleeding from an arm, the stabbed constable fired at Mr Mahdi from 7m away using a Glock pistol.

Soon after the shooting, Mr Mahdi's brother, Bilal, was interviewed by the Herald.

Mr Mahdi said three bullets struck his brother in the leg and the family was struggling to understand why police did not wait for him to fall.

* STEVEN JAMES WALLACE at Waitara, April 2000:

Steven Wallace was shot dead in the main street of Waitara after breaking shop windows and had a golf club and baseball bat.

The then Constable Mr Abbott arrived on the scene about the same time as Constable Jason Dombroski and another constable. Mr Abbott saw Mr Wallace smash the windscreen and side window of Mr Dombroski's car. Mr Dombroski asked police communications to tell Mr Abbott to arm himself.

Mr Wallace closed in on Mr Abbott. Mr Abbott fired a warning shot and then a shot at Mr Wallace, who died in hospital a short time later.

A murder case was bought against Senior Sergeant Keith Abbott and he has been acquitted.

* EDDIE LEO at Helensville, July 1999

Father-of-two Eddie Leo was shot dead after he refused to put down a fake Glock pistol he was pointing at a police officer, who believed it was real.

He was killed after the officer fired three shots, the first two hitting his arm and shoulder. Leo had stolen a car and had been drinking and smoking cannabis. When confronted by police he was pepper-sprayed and hit with a baton, both of which had no effect.

The Police Complaints Authority cleared the shooter, whose identity is suppressed.

* DANIEL BRUCE LAWS at Christchurch, August 1998:

Laws, aged 20, was shot by police after firing a shotgun several times in central Christchurch, then abducting a woman.

Two officers using pistols did not disable him despite firing 18 shots.

One shot from another police officer's rifle is thought to have finally incapacitated Laws.

The Police Complaints Authority cleared police of any misconduct or neglect of duty.

Laws, who had taken drugs before the incident, made a full recovery from the shooting and was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

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