Former police inspector says officer should face court

Former police inspector Ross Meurant says the armed offenders squad member who fired the shot that killed teenage courier driver Halatau Naitoko should be tried before a court.

A 50-year-old man at the centre of Friday's police pursuit on Auckland's Northwestern Motorway will appear in Auckland District Court today. He was released from hospital yesterday and remains in police custody.

The man will face numerous charges relating to incidents during the 40-minute chase through Auckland City and west Auckland suburbs.

The pursuit ended when the offender, allegedly armed with a sawn-off .22 calibre Ruger rifle got out of his vehicle and apparently tried to get into others, including Mr Naitoko's, while allegedly firing shots at police.

Mr Naitoko, 17, was shot dead by police as they fired at the man.

Another man at the scene was also wounded.

Mr Meurant, a former MP, told Newstalk ZB he was particularly concerned about what he called the police public relations campaign which jumped into action in the aftermath of the tragedy.

He claimed the Police Association moved into overdrive to protect police at the expense of upholding the law.

On Saturday association president Greg O'Connor said Mr Naitoko's killing was a tragedy, but police were given very little choice about their actions.

"That Mr Naitoko was hit by a police bullet is a doubly cruel blow not only for his family, but also for police.

"The Police Association is unequivocally supporting the police officers involved, who were forced to act and do the best job they could when faced with a very difficult situation."

Mr Meurant said police could only shoot to kill when they feared death or grievous injury to themselves or someone else and when there was no other way to prevent it.

He questions the decision-making process that led to Mr Naitoko's death.

Mr O'Connor said it was important people understood the situation the police found themselves in.

"They had no choice but to respond to the very serious threat posed by the rampaging armed offender. The outcome is tragic for all concerned but these are sometimes the harsh realities of policing, he said.

"It is sad reality that dangerous and violent criminals put the lives of others at risk every day."

Mr O'Connor said very occasionally, in the heat of dangerous and volatile situations police were called to deal with, bystanders were accidentally dragged into the action with tragic results.

"We offer our deepest condolences to Mr Naitoko's family," he said.

Police historian Susan Butterworth said Mr Naitoko was the first innocent bystander killed by police in New Zealand.

- NZPA

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