Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Deadly police pursuit 'unjustified'

Scene of the crash in Mangere which killed 33-year-old Api Kao Aue. Richard Robinson
Scene of the crash in Mangere which killed 33-year-old Api Kao Aue. Richard Robinson

Police were "unjustified'' in pursuing a car through the streets of Auckland at speeds of up to 150km/h, a chase which ended in a fatal crash, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found.

Api Kao Aue, 33, was killed and his two passengers seriously injured when his Subaru Impreza spun out of control and slammed into a street sign on Kirkbride Rd in Mangere late on December 4, 2010.

He was more than two times the legal breath alcohol limit when he fled police at excessive speeds in the 60km/h semi-residential area.

The two officers involved were in an unmarked patrol car when they saw the Subaru travelling fast through Mangere Bridge and followed it.

They told the authority it suddenly accelerated to an estimated 100km/h and overtook another vehicle without using indicators.

It drove past a traffic island on the wrong side of the road and remained in the wrong lane for some time.

The officer driving the police car, referred to in the authority report as Officer A, then turned on the warning lights and sirens. They were still several hundred metres behind Mr Kao Aue's car.

The officers said they did not immediately notify the police communications centre or other police units because they weren't sure he was trying to evade them.

However, when they failed to catch up to the car, Officer B told the communications dispatcher they were in pursuit of a vehicle.

Police policy requires that once a pursuit has commenced the dispatcher must give the warning: "If there is any unjustified risk to any person you are to abandon pursuit immediately, acknowledge.''

The dispatcher gave this warning to Officer B, who immediately responded: "Yeah acknowledged comms, current speed 150, traffic medium, he's just spun out and he's crashed crashed crashed, vehicle's gone down, we'll need ambos.''

Mr Kao Aue had lost control while taking a bend and crashed into a steel sign post on a grassy verge.

Only one of Mr Kao Aue's passengers was able to be interviewed by the authority. He said he had made numerous requests for Mr Kao Aue to slow down but he responded by turning up the music in the car.

The passenger hadn't known police were following and said no one in the car had mentioned it.

Officer A said he he had felt at the time that the speed they were travelling at was safe in the circumstances.

But Officer B said: "I remember thinking when I first informed comms of our speed, it was a bit quick.''

Officer A told the authority there was no traffic on the roads at the time, despite Officer B having told the dispatcher traffic was "medium''.

"The authority finds that the traffic density during ... the pursuit was medium. The evidence also established the presence of pedestrian traffic, as well as people getting in and out of parked cars, at the time.''

In its report, released today, the authority said the officers had complied with the law in commencing the pursuit and in respect of the communication they'd had with the dispatcher.

However, for a short time the pursuit reached a speed of 150km/h in a 60km/h speed zone, "which was not justified by the circumstances and was contrary to policy''.

"Api Kao Aue demonstrated by his actions that he was prepared to risk his life and the lives of others by driving in the manner that he did.

"Other than the high speed reached by Officer A, the pursuit was conducted in accordance with policy.

"The extremely high speed reached for a short time by Officer A during the pursuit was unjustified.''

The IPCA recommended that "Officer A is reminded of the risks of pursuing at such a high speed''.

- APNZ

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