Kawerau siege trial: Alleged shooter cross-examines AOS officer who was shot in the head

By Sam Carran

Rhys Warren is charged with two counts of attempted murder, three counts of using a firearm against a law enforcement officer and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Photo / Alan Gibson
Rhys Warren is charged with two counts of attempted murder, three counts of using a firearm against a law enforcement officer and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Photo / Alan Gibson

The Armed Offenders Squad officer shot in the head during a siege near Kawerau has today been cross examined in court by his alleged shooter.

Rhys Warren, 28, is on trial at the High Court in Hamilton, charged with two counts of attempted murder, three counts of using a firearm against a law enforcement officer and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The charges stem from a siege on Onepu Springs Road in March

Warren, defending himself, started his cross examination of Constable Regan Mauheni saying "I hope you have recovered well from your injuries."

He then went on to question whether AOS were aware that a lot of people in the area were afraid of police. "No, I was not," said Constable Mauheni.

Warren asked Constable Mauheni to remember the siege where he was shot in the face to get a good picture of where he was standing in the hallway when the shot was fired because "I only saw one person advancing in the hallway", instead of the two Constable Mauheni described.

Warren then stuck with the line of questioning of wondering whether a Maori man would have had the same treatment as a Pakeha in a nicer house.

"Do you think a scum-of-the-earth Maori boy would have been safe if he didn't come out and didn't listen to police demands?" he asked.

Constable Mauheni said race didn't matter in a situation like this and the actions of AOS members were fair given they were acting on the information that shots had been fired from the vicinity at officers or a police plane.

The scene of the incident at Onepu in the Eastern Bay of Plenty last year. Photo /  Ben Fraser
The scene of the incident at Onepu in the Eastern Bay of Plenty last year. Photo / Ben Fraser

The next witness was Sergeant Damian White, the team leader of the AOS operation inside Warren's home and another one of the four officers shot and injured during the siege.

Sergeant White said he remembered seeing a "massive flash" aimed at his face and a "really loud bang" before recognising he was hit.

"It was like in the movies when you see that someone near an explosion loses their hearing and then it slowly comes back. It was exactly like that."

Earlier in the trial Sergeant White had been described by Crown prosecutor Aaron Perkins QC as very lucky because the bullet fired at him had hit the sights on his M4 rifle, sending shrapnel into his face and hands but breaking up the bullet.

Sergeant White said he recognised he had been shot. "I've been hit in the face but I still have my teeth and I can still think."

He said the entire incident, him and Constable Mauheni being shot, seeing Mauheni lying prone and then releasing what to do, seemed to last an eternity to think of when in reality only a few seconds would have gone past.

Sergeant White remembered "melting" over Constable Mauheni to protect as he lay in the hallway in what the AOS officers described as the danger zone.

"I just hoped that if I was shot it would be on my back plate so I had a good chance to survive."

Those seconds of lying over Constable Mauheni also felt like an eternity as his team members lay down suppressive fire, allowing Constable Martyn Roe to drag Constable Mauheni to safety.

When asked by Mr Perkins what he thought the massive flash was, Sergeant White didn't hesitate in saying he thought it was a shotgun.

"Possibly one used for duck shooting. I recognised the shot had spread as it hadn't taken my face off."

He recounted his injuries to the jury, which were flash burns under the line of his goggles, shrapnel through his face and shrapnel through his index finger that exited out of the back of the knuckle on his right hand.

Warren then had a chance to cross examine Sergeant White, again hoping that he was recovering well from his injuries, to which Sergeant White replied he had already required three surgeries to his hand and would need more.

When the question of trust between the Maori community in the area and police again came up Sergeant White said Bay of Plenty police are at 80 per cent trust with the Maori community and it is something they are proud of.

"I have whanau in the Te Teko and Kawerau areas and they have never mentioned being scared of police."

Sergeant White also said he thought AOS did everything they could to gain trust with the occupant of the home, considering the events that had already occurred.

"We are not there to harm people. We are there to protect every member of the community, whether they choose to be on the right side of the law or not."

The three-week trial continues.

- Newstalk ZB

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