Officer says Taser had little effect on wanted man

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Four officers are on trial for assaulting Greg McPeake shortly before he died during arrest. Photo/Supplied
Four officers are on trial for assaulting Greg McPeake shortly before he died during arrest. Photo/Supplied

A jury has started hearing what four police officers accused of assault say they did, saw and heard during an arrest in which a wanted man died at a Napier beach car park.

The recollections come in transcripts of interviews with the four in the days after the death of 53-year-old Gregory McPeake at Westshore early on the Friday morning of March 13, 2015.

He had been wanted for several hours after assaulting his parents in Hastings the night earlier, and the admission of his 76-year-old father to hospital with head and spinal injuries.

The names of the four police officers on trial have been suppressed.

More than 200 pages of transcripts were expected to be read to the court today on the fourth day of a trial before Judge Phillip Cooper and a jury of six men and six women in Napier District Court where the four officers each deny one charge of assaulting Mr McPeake with a weapon. They have interim name suppression pending the outcome of the trial.

It was estimated the reading of the transcripts would take about five hours, Judge Cooper said it was hoped the readings would be completed before the trial adjourns for the weekend.

In an interview with Detective Jason Earl of Hamilton, the sole female officer among the accuseds said she became first involved on the way to a bail check in Napier. She was told an officer had found Mr McPeake's vehicle in a car park off The Esplanade and just north of the Westshore Surf Lifesaving Club.

Soon afterwards she and other officers were briefed as they stood in Pukeko Place about 200m from where the vehicle was parked near the beach and facing the sea.

They were told of the earlier assault, that the man was large, and that he could be armed with a crossbow. She and five others were chosen to advance on the vehicle while their officer in charge used a loudhailer to call on the man to get out of the vehicle and surrender.

The man did not comply and - after he appeared to light up a cigarette, turn up the radio in the two-door Honda SUV, wind up the driver's side window and lock the door, and move to possibly start the vehicle - the decision was made to smash the windows to try to remove him.

She said he resisted all efforts, and she made the decision to use a Taser for the first time in her career, yelling "Taser, 50,000 volts" and then "Taser, Taser, Taser" before firing at the 179kg Mr McPeake as he remained in the driver's seat.

It had little effect and she arced the Taser with further current, and another officer also tasered the man, but Mr McPeake brushed-off the probes. The man had also been hit with pepper spray. The female officer and another officer suffered the effects of blow-back as spray struck their faces and eyes.

She said she kept thinking of the possibility the man had a crossbow as officers and two dogs tried to enter the vehicle, and she would remember the wide-eyed way he looked at her, with eyes of "rage and anger".

While it seemed like "forever" it was a few minutes later that Mr McPeake was out of the vehicle, face down on the ground and starting to vomit. Officers started first aid, including using a defibrillator from one of the police vehicles.

She helped tilt his head, and assisted as police waited for an ambulance. "I remember trying to talk to him and telling him to hang-in there," she told the officer.

The trial is proceeding.

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