Palmerston North lockdown: Police arrest fugitive

The police search for armed fugitive Caleb Kovaleski in Palmerston North suburb of Cloverlea is over.

The New Zealand Police Media account sent the following tweet at 4.24pm: "#BREAKING - Police have peacefully resolved the situation in Palmerston North where a man has been brought safely into custody. More soon"


House where the gunman surrendered. Photo / Supplied
House where the gunman surrendered. Photo / Supplied

The gunman was taken into police custody at a house on Willowstream Grove.

At least one woman was home at the time.

The house remains cordoned off despite other cordons in the suburb being lifted.

There is a large police presence there and media are not allowed onto the property.

An NZME reporter at the scene said Kovaleski was seen being driver out of the cordon area in a detective's car.

He was wearing a black beanie. The man was driven out from the Benmore Ave cordon.

Kovaleski surrendered himself at 4.15pm, said Manawatu area commander inspector Sarah Stewart.

"I would particularly like to acknowledge the patience, assistance and support of the local community, who have rallied together to support each other and the police while we worked to resolve the situation.

"Our focus will now turn to facilitating the safe return of people to their homes, and on the criminal investigation that will follow.

"This will include ongoing scene examinations at the property involved."

Earlier, a friend of Kovaleski told the Herald at 3pm that he had "just spoken" to the fugitive on the phone within the last five minutes.

"He just wants to talk to his ex and his kids," said the friend, who wished not to be named.

Police relaxed the Cloverlea cordon around 3pm. Residents on Peters Ave, Fox Place and Tararua Tce have been let back into their homes.

However, Benmore Ave and Herbert Ave remain inaccessible to residents.

The welfare centre at Cloverlea Tavern on Tremain Ave is still open for those who need it.

A resident inside the cordon said police were currently entering a property on the corner of Bendigo St and Rosedale Cres.

The resident also said he heard smashing glass.

Several shots were fired in the Herbert Ave area, a Peters Ave resident inside the cordon said.

"Police seem to be busy. They are pointing their guns along the street," the resident said.

Police at the cordon were wearing high visibility gear, she said.

A second helicopter was at the scene.

They have moved the cones to Herbert Ave and a sign "Do Not Cross" was placed on the road, the resident said.

This afternoon, police again appealed for Kovaleski to hand himself in after he appeared to post a message to authorities on social media.

At a press conference this afternoon, Manawatu Area Commander Inspector Sarah Stewart said the lockdown in Cloverlea was "incredibly stressful" for the community.

"This is an operation where we have an absolute focus that everyone is safe with no one hurt or injured. We have the absolute focus on resolving this safely and would really like Caleb to hand himself into police."

He needs to do this "for the community's sake and for his own sake," she said.

"We are hoping and wanting Caleb to give himself up ... so we can resolve this successfully and safely."

In a Facebook post this morning that appears to be written by the fugitive, Kovaleski criticised police.

"I won't [sic] the police to know all u had to do was let me speak to. One person."

Ms Stewart said Kovaleski has a number of warrants to arrest for a range of offences including driving and dishonesty offences, and when police tried to stop him yesterday he was "believed to be in possession of a firearm".

Police have been in communication with him, she said.

She said specialist staff were working strategically to resolve the situation and staff had been "refreshed" with new officers.

Police were "absolutely overwhelmed" by support from the community, she said.
It was believed that he was not with anyone else.

Around midday, armed officers entered a house in the suburb of Cloverlea.

A person inside the cordon said shortly after 12pm today that an armed offenders squad could be seen going into a house on the corner of Rosedale Cres and Willowstream Grove.

A police helicopter has resumed an aerial surveillance of Cloverlea while residents reported hearing glass smashing and dogs "going off."

A Palmerston North rescue helicopter has also been sighted in the area early this afternoon.

A number of police vehicles with lights flashing and at speed were earlier seen driving through the Cloverlea Tavern cordon.

They included two police cars, a large black SUV with tinted windows and large white van, also with tinted windows.

A van belonging to the special tactical unit is already stationed inside the cordon.

The Fire Service has also arrived, with two crews now parked in the tavern carpark.

Workers from the tavern have put a call out for those needing a change of clothes to take advantage of items gathered from the community.

The number of people in the carpark is growing with estimates of at least 100 cars and at least 100 people seeking refuge at the temporary welfare centre.

An eyewitness from inside the cordon had seen a small silver car "fly past" his house at speed with a police car in pursuit.

A number of residents in the area were forced to sleep elsewhere last night, as officers carried out their work.

St Michael's Church marae in the suburb of Highbury opened its doors to Cloverlea residents who were not able to return to their homes.

Benmore Ave resident Robin Inwood said he and his wife stayed by the cordon until early this morning, hoping to return home.

But when they found out marae had opened their doors, they decided to stay there for the night.

He said police escorted about 30 people to their homes last night.

Most were people who required urgent medication, he said.

Police had checked their homes before residents entered and they weren't then allowed to leave.

A Maori warden at the marae said about 20 people stayed overnight, including a family with a young child.

The marae would be open until the cordon was lifted.

The rapid relief team have arrived at the welfare centre to provide community support to stranded locals.

Meanwhile, the father and sister of the man at the centre of a manhunt have appealed for their loved one to hand himself in.

The sister of Kovaleski pleaded with her brother to give himself up for the sake of his children.

"Please Caleb stop this now. We all love you. I know you probably [are] not worried about other people at the moment but do it all for ya (sic) kids," wrote Sonya Kovaleski in an emotional post on Facebook this morning.

She said she loved her brother and hoped to see him soon.

Jim Antcliff, the "whangai" adoptive father of the armed man, also made a heartfelt Facebook plea to Caleb to surrender.

"Love you son. Son there's family's and KIDS they need their beds son ...let me come get you son.

"We travelled so many journeys ...this is not the last you hear me son ..this is not the last of our journeys."

Jim Antcliff posted a message to Caleb Kovaleski  on Facebook. Photo / Facebook
Jim Antcliff posted a message to Caleb Kovaleski on Facebook. Photo / Facebook

He also apologised to everyone who had been forced to spend the night away from their homes.

"To all the families and especially kids ..I'm sorry for your inconvenience. He's a good man ..and he will be sorry that you all are not at home."

He said despite the latest events Caleb loved kids and family and animals.

Mr Antcliff is afraid of what will happen to his son.

He said the 25-year-old father-of-five had ended up in a bad place with his latest partner.

He was a good father and son but had an unstable mind at the moment so anything could happen.

Mr Antcliff was worried his son would either hurt himself or police.

He had been trying to call his son this morning but there was no answer.

Cloverlea resident Shannon said she had been hunkered inside her home since 12.30pm yesterday with the doors and windows shut tight and curtains pulled across.

"It's still the same. We're still in lockdown, which is not fun," said the mother-of-one.

The woman said an eerie silence had descended on the neighbourhood as armed police patrolled either end of the road and a continuous stream of police drove along the otherwise-deserted street.

"It was pretty quiet. I was constantly looking out the window and all I could see were police cars going up and down, up and down the street all night."

Police on the scene in the Cloverlea area of Palmerston North. Photo / Alecia Rousseau
Police on the scene in the Cloverlea area of Palmerston North. Photo / Alecia Rousseau

She said she had spent the night with her 11-month-old son after her partner was held up at the cordon when he knocked off from work.

"My partner was trying to get home but they wouldn't let him in. He ended up staying the night at a workmate's house."

The couple had kept in phone contact during the evening to help get through the long hours.

A number of neighbours were out when the cordon was put in place and were forced to spend the night elsewhere.

"My neighbours left their home just before they closed the road so they rang me last night and asked me to feed their dog."

She said she was keeping her eye on Facebook pages to find out the latest developments in her suburb and hoping news would come soon that she could leave her home.

A resident near the cordon said police seemed to have scaled back their numbers overnight but car loads of AOS members appeared around 8am.

Police told her they hoped to resolve the situation today.

Scores of families were forced to spend last night elsewhere in the city as the suburb remained under a tight cordon.

One man who was forced to spend the night in his work van outside Cloverlea Tavern said he shifted to the Benmore Ave cordon to try and get warmth from the sun.

Still in his high-vis work gear the middle-aged man said he was frustrated by the delay and lack of communication.

"I've had to take the day off work and police haven't been giving me a lot of information. My phone is flat and I have no internet access so I have no choice but to stay at the cordon and wait and see what happens."

A married couple who slept in their car outside the Benmore Ave cordon said they didn't want to leave just in case the fugitive was caught and the cordon lifted.

They had to turn their car on constantly throughout the night to keep warm.

The woman said she felt frustrated because they didn't leave their Cloverlea home until 5pm and were not aware they would not be able to return.

She said police should have been knocking on doors telling residents to not go out if they didn't need to.

During the night one of the children had to go to Palmerston North Hospital to get vital medical equipment.

She had a cat and dog that had been left locked inside for more than 24 hours and she was very concerned for their welfare.

The family had incurred steep accommodation costs as well as buying phone chargers as a result of being blocked from their homes.

One woman spent nearly nine hours in her car before heading to the marae.

She returned to the tavern this morning to see if she could go home to get her medication but was told this was not possible.

St Michael's Church marae in Palmerston North's suburb of Highbury opened their doors last night to residents who weren't able to return to their homes.

Resident Robin Inwood said he and his wife stayed by the cordon until early this morning, hoping to return to their home.

But when they found out Michael's church marae had opened their doors, they decided to stay there for the night.

He said about 30 people were escorted by police last night to their homes.

Most were people who required urgent medication, he said.

Police had checked their homes before residents entered and weren't allowed to leave since.

A Maori warden at the marae said about 20 people stayed overnight, including a family with a young child.

The marae would be open until the cordon was lifted.

The police officer in charge of the hunt wants the man hunt to end peacefully and appealing to the wanted man to surrender.

Manawatu Area Commander Inspector Sarah Stewart said the priority was to ensure the safety of the community and end the situation without anyone being harmed.

"Our priority is to end this situation safely, and we encourage Caleb to give himself up to police," said Ms Stewart.

Police were taking a systematic and coordinated approach as they scoured the area to find the wanted man.

"Police would like to thank the local community for their continued patience and assistance as we work to resolve the situation, as we appreciate the disruption and inconvenience this is causing for people wanting to return to their homes and their normal routines.

"However, our absolute priority is ensuring the safety of the community and working towards a safe and peaceful resolution for everyone, including Caleb," said Ms Stewart.

Police were this morning quizzing residents at the Cloverlea Tavern about who lived at the property, if there were firearms and how many animals in each home.

Vehicles were still leaving the suburb but undergoing thorough searches before exiting the cordon.

They were still hopeful of resolving the situation peacefully.

Cloverlea Primary School and Kindergarten will be closed today and people inside the wide cordon are asked to stay inside their homes.

Armed police and armed offenders squad members continue to search for the 25-year-old who has evaded capture since yesterday morning.

Police said their priority is to keep residents safe while the wanted man remains on the run.

"We continue to appreciate the patience being shown by local residents throughout this event. We understand this incident is proving to be disruptive and that people want to go back to their homes and return to their routines.

"However, our priority in this case is to keep the public safe. Therefore, the cordons will remain in place until further notice."

Police have set up two welfare centres for two locations to provide support for Cloverlea residents locked out by the cordon.

The centres are at the Cloverlea Tavern on Tremaine Ave the Highbury Whanau Centre on Highbury Ave.

Police said both centres had officers available to help with any concerns.

Armed offenders squad search a house in the Cloverlea area of Palmerston North. Photo / Alecia Rousseau
Armed offenders squad search a house in the Cloverlea area of Palmerston North. Photo / Alecia Rousseau

Those caught inside the cordon are asked to remain vigilant keeping doors and windows locked and reporting any suspicious behaviour to police.

People with empty houses are asked to contact police in order to have their property searched before returning back home.

Loud bangs were heard in Palmerston North yesterday afternoon when armed police stormed a house as they searched for the fleeing offender.

The man allegedly evaded police during a high speed pursuit.

The police spokeswoman said the pursuit started at 10.45am after an attempt was made to stop the grey Mazda.

- NZ Herald

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