Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Kawerau siege trial: Officers lucky bullets struck their weapons - Crown

Rhys Warren, centre in white shirt, at the Hamilton High Court today. Warren is accused of shooting and wounding four police officers last year. Photo/Alan Gibson
Rhys Warren, centre in white shirt, at the Hamilton High Court today. Warren is accused of shooting and wounding four police officers last year. Photo/Alan Gibson

Two of the four police officers who were allegedly shot at during a 22-hour siege in Kawerau suffered "remarkable good fortune", a court has heard.

Crown prosecutor Aaron Perkins told the jury in his opening address today parts of the officers' guns took the brunt of the bullets aimed at their faces.

Perkins said police were at two neighbouring properties on Onepu Springs Rd in Otakiri carrying out a cannabis bust.

A a detective heard two shots and a puff of smoke which he said were aimed at a light plane circling above helping with the operation.

The detective felt the third shot was aimed at him.

These shots sparked call-outs from the Armed Offenders Squads in Rotorua and Tauranga who surrounded 158 and 160 Onepu Springs Rd where the bust was being carried out.

After two-hours of appealing to Warren to come out of 158 Onepu Springs Rd, a team of six police officers and a police dog then broke through the back door and entered the house clearing through the kitchen, lounge and two bedrooms off the hallway.

As two officers made their way down the end of the hallway to the two remaining bedrooms, Perkins said Warren fired shots at them from a bedroom using a high powered rifle.

Perkins told the jury the rifle was being at directed at the officers' faces, but by luck hit the sighting mechanism on Constable Damian White's rifle rather than hitting him directly.

But the shrapnel from the bullet flew and hit the right-side of his face and his right index finger.

Constable Regan Mauheni who was directly behind White was the most seriously injured when a fragment of the shrapnel split his skull bone and lodged just beside brain causing brain hemorrhage and bruising to the brain.

Once hit, Mauheni "bounced" to the floor and became unconscious. With no weapon, White also dropped to his knees and tried to cover his non-responsive colleague.

Two officers who were also in the house then started firing towards the bedroom to protect their colleagues and prevent him coming into the hallway.

Constable Andrew Flinn was at the end of the hall and firing short bursts with his M4 rifle when he was shot at, sustaining multiple entry wounds to his left knee and thigh.

Another officer, who had been shooting through a bedroom wall, tried to drag Mauheni out of the house while the two other injured officers could walk out unassisted.

As they dragged Mauheni, his glock pistol was left behind.

Other officers were still surrounding the house.

Sergeant Logan Marsh was in a pit at the back of the property watching the back of the house when his left hand was hit by a bullet and his left hand was flung off his gun.

His right hand was on the trigger, but the bullet missed him and wedged itself against all the bullets in the M4 rifle's magazine.

"You may think this is another remarkable piece of good fortune for another police officer in this case," Perkins told the jury.

Later in the evening other police units arrived and Warren eventually gave himself up the next morning.

Warren's friends and family had been texting him through the night under and Perkins said the messages indicate he shot at police because he was protecting his indigenous rights.

In his opening remarks, Justice Timothy Brewer told the jurors they could decide on the case based only on the evidence heard in the court.

He told the jury it was easy to feel prejudice against a person in court charged with shooting a police officer, but said they needed to put any prejudice to one side.

The crown is expected to call on 40 witnesses during the the three week trial including the four injured police officers, who Perkins said had recovered sufficiently to give evidence.

Among the exhibits would be three firearms and hundred of photos.

"Above all, your job is to be fair...," Brewer said.

Warren is supported in court by a McKenzie friend whose role is to advocate for him and assist him with his case during the trial.

The trial will recommence at 2pm.

- NZ Herald

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