Mum alone with newborn left shaken by standoff

By Morgan Tait, Solbin Kang, Alecia Rousseau

The man at the centre of the standoff was in contact with family and friends before handing himself in. Photo / Solbin Kang
The man at the centre of the standoff was in contact with family and friends before handing himself in. Photo / Solbin Kang

A woman trapped in her home with her week-old baby watched as armed police negotiated with a man before cutting a hole in the roof of her neighbour's house to reach him.

The woman, who gave birth by caesarean section last week, had been holed up inside the Cloverlea cordon in Palmerston North with her newborn since Caleb Peter Kovaleski fled police in his grey Mazda.

Too shaken from the ordeal to be named, the woman told the Weekend Herald how she was stuck in her Willowstream Grove house and that her partner and other children were not allowed to come home.

Her fears escalated when her dog began barking yesterday afternoon.

"My dog started barking continuously and I knew something was going on," she said. "I opened the curtains and an AOS member popped up from behind my fence.

"I could hear them speaking outside and then nine of them came to my door and questioned me about my neighbour. The AOS began lining the fence with their guns out.

"Police had a loud speaker with [Kovaleski's] dad on a pre-recorded message asking him to, 'Please come out, put everything down and we will talk. We know you are in the house, it is better for you to come out. Come to the driveway, let's talk'."

Police then moved to an A-frame house one door down.

"They cut a large hole in the roof and went in to get him.

"He came out willingly after that."

The house where the man appeared to have been detained from was the only one that remained cordoned off last night, but police appeared to have left the scene by about 6.30pm.

Kovaleski was in police custody last night. Throughout the ordeal he has communicated with police, family and friends. One of those, his former partner who wished to only be known by her first name, Letitia, said she had two daughters with Kovaleski from a four-year relationship that ended in 2013.

He also had three other children with three other women, including a daughter born this year.

"I told him that it was all over the news and more serious than he might think and that the police won't muck around if they know he has a gun.

"I just kept saying to please, please ring the police and tell them that you want to hand yourself in so you don't get shot, and to do it for your future so you can still have one.

"He said he wasn't okay and then asked if I would write to him in jail."

About an hour later he handed himself in.

Letitia said she was glad the situation was resolved peacefully.

Kovaleski was not violent or dangerous, but had a troubled life, she said. "He was in lots of foster homes from ... primary school age. Because of his childhood ... he's been stuck in that pattern his whole life."

- NZ Herald

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