Shots were fired and elderly people nearly run over during a dramatic high-speed police chase in the Bay of Plenty.
Kawerau has been left reeling after the pursuit terrified onlookers yesterday - and the mayor says the council needs to look at vehicle access into the town in the aftermath.
The drama started at 11.25am when a man fled a Kawerau property in a vehicle while police were searching the place.
A pursuit started and spikes were deployed but the driver continued on State Highway 34 towards Te Teko, 11km away.
The vehicle was spiked again before it came to a stop in the small township.
Police said the driver presented a firearm at officers and police fired at him.
A customer at the Te Teko Superette said he heard "four gun shots at least".
"It was scary for some, but others went out to look see what was happening even though there were gunshots."
Another witness said the driver had got out of his car in the middle of the road, and fired shots "randomly".
She said she was too frightened to look out the window when she heard one of the shots hit something metal and she stayed low.
People were outside and ducked behind cars when the shooting started, she said.
The offender fled in another vehicle stolen from the scene and headed back towards Kawerau.
A witness in Kawerau said she and her workmates heard police sirens and when they went out to have a look they saw a vehicle come around the corner, through the car park and almost hit her car in Onslow St.
"He came speeding through, rammed a police car right in front of all our shops. He looked like he was doing about 80km/h,'' she said.
"He nearly ran over elderly people, one man on a mobility scooter was in shock. I had to help him get back."
The witness said it was upsetting to see someone putting other lives at risk.
"It's the worst thing I've ever seen here, he nearly ran that man over. People were on the footpath and a lady was holding her baby - she was looking down at us and he just flew out from behind her.
"I was screaming at everyone get back, get your kids back. I was worried about the schools because if anyone was on the pedestrian crossing he just wouldn't have stopped."
Police said officers forced the vehicle to a stop and the driver fled.
Police later arrested a man. No one has reported being injured.
None of the witnesses spoken to by this newspaper wanted to be identified.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority is being notified because police firearms were discharged and the circumstances of the incident are being investigated.
Kawerau mayor Malcolm Campbell said the biggest concern was public safety.
"Police have a job to do and I think they did a good job, but at the end of the day, I think as council we need to look very seriously at vehicle access into the centre of our town - particularly around pedestrian walkways."
Campbell believed the driver came close to injuring multiple witnesses while in pursuit.
"Just to be driving like that through town, they could've killed somebody. It's not good enough.
"To be able to drive a car right through the town centre is not acceptable so we need to take a long hard look at that."
- Additional reporting by Leah Tebbutt.