The man shot by police after a domestic incident in Whanganui on Friday night was known to police and had a history of violence.

Upper Hutt man Savey Kevin Sous​, 32, was shot three times, in the torso and arm.

He was of Cambodian descent but had lived in New Zealand for about 20 years.

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Central Districts Commander Superintendent Sue Schwalger told a press conference outside the Whanganui Police Station on Saturday that Sous was known to the police and had been arrested several times, including for violence.

He had been convicted of a range of offences including family violence.

In 2009, Sous was jailed for five years after binding a taxi driver with a metal dog chain and stealing his bank card, NZPA reported.

He and an accomplice were convicted of a number of charges including kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Sous was also convicted of stealing the taxi belonging to the victim.

The judge noted Sous, who came to New Zealand as a refugee, had many previous convictions including four for violence or threats of violence.

At the end of last year Sous was bailed to a flat in Pine Avenue, Upper Hutt. He was evicted from the flat after threatening to "kill and harm" the property manager and a contractor.

In November a Tenancy Tribunal hearing, that Sous did not attend, heard that Sous had made threats to kill in person and over the phone.

It is understood he was charged by police over the threats.

Police were called to the Mitchell St house after a report of family violence, Schwalger said.

"When officers approached Mr Sous to tell him he was under arrest he told them to step back and pulled out a concealed, loaded sawn-off shot gun and pointed it at unarmed officers.

"The officers retreated, cordons were put in place and the armed offenders squad called."

A woman with visible injuries, Sous' partner, was able to leave the house safely. Nearby residents were advised to stay in their houses and away from the windows.

Sous was seen towards the back of the house and was called on to surrender several times. He ignored the requests and advanced towards the officers.

He was then shot.

"Three shots were fired in total, hitting Mr Sous in the torso and arm," Schwalger said.

Schwalger said police provided immediate first aid at the scene and an ambulance was called.

Sous was rushed to hospital, under police escort, in a critical condition. Police were advised at 9.45pm that Sous had died from his injuries.

"This is a tragic outcome. No police officer comes to work to end up in a situation such as this."

Firearms were and always would be a last resort, she said.

"Unfortunately in a small number of circumstances when offenders carry firearms and present a serious threat to their community and our staff police have no option but to resort to firearms."

She said all the officers involved in the incident were from the Whanganui area.

An internal investigation has been launched and the Independent Police Conduct Authority has been informed.

The victim of the original 111 call is receiving assistance by police, Victim Support and fmaily members.

Police involved in the shooting were also receiving support, she said. The officers were coming to terms with what happened in their own way but it would take time.

She said a Taser was not suitable in the circumstances given the threat of a loaded gun pointed at police officers. Tasers require users to be close to the target.

Cordons were removed from Mitchell St but a scene guard remains.

Sous came to New Zealand as a young child. Language was not thought to be an issue during the incident.