A man was shot dead after a 15-hour standoff with a man who held three children hostage inside a property in Tauranga on Sunday afternoon. Zoe Hunter reports.
Two young children were carried to safety in the arms of armed police moments after a man who had been holding them hostage inside a Bellevue house was shot dead.
The children, aged 4 and six, were taken out the front door and rushed to an ambulance following a 15-hour ordeal which began in the early hours of Sunday morning when the man threatened his partner with a knife.
One neighbour, who had just moved to the area, said she had heard people arguing some time after 11pm on Saturday before hearing a loud bang.
"There were fireworks going prior... but we heard a different bang," she said. "We assumed he had a gun. It was pretty chilling what we heard. We heard that sound, the screaming and then it just went really, really quiet."
Bay of Plenty Commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said police were called to Oriana Crescent house in Bellevue at about 12.30am.
The woman escaped and went to a nearby home for help.
Three children remained inside the home and when police arrived they found the man, who was known to them, holding a machete to the throat of one of the children.
"He threatened to harm that child," said McGregor.
"The man retreated into a wardrobe with that child and a second child."
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Police managed to rescue the eldest child, an 11-year-old from the two-storey home.
Police negotiators and the Armed Offenders Squad tried to work with the man but McGregor said communication with him was limited and concerns for the children increased as the day went on.
"The police negotiating team tried everything to resolve this situation," McGregor said.
As the day progressed concerns for the children's safety grew.
"Medical advice received was that there were grave concerns for the children's health due not only to their age, but a lack of food and a potential for dehydration given the high temperature in the area of the house where the man had barricaded himself with the children."
At 3pm, after negotiators and psychologists made the decision they "were not going to get any further with the offender", police decided to storm the house.
AOS members climbed a ladder at the side of the house and smashed a window into the top floor at the same time a series of loud bangs went off.
A neighbour described hearing up to 11 loud bangs which she described as "gunshots" about 3.30pm.
"Bullets were going through the roof."
McGregor said police entered the house to find the man holding a knife to one of the children's chest.
"He was shot by police and pronounced dead at the scene."
Soon after neighbours watched as police dressed in full black tactical gear carried two children out of the front door of the house to safety.
The two children were taken to Tauranga Hospital with minor injuries.
The neighbour who had heard the fighting late on Saturday night said she saw Armed Offenders officers climb a ladder and smash a window.
"We are fine, just a bit shocked about it," she said late yesterday. "They [the police] did a good job."
Another neighbour, who had also heard arguing in the house in the early hours of the morning, said he got up to go fishing at about 4.30am and saw the police cars had blocked the entrance to his street.
He said he had lived on the street for the last six years and said he had "never seen anything like it".
"It is normally a pretty quiet street."
McGregor said police were offering support to the family.
"This is a very traumatic event for them and it is something that no one should ever have to go through."
"We had no other option but to get those kids out of that house safely."
He said the police staff involved will be on compulsory stand down for 10 days.
"We don't come to work and do these things, we want to keep our community safe."
The IPCA has been notified of the shooting. A police Critical Incident Investigation is also underway and the man's death will be referred to the Coroner.
Cordons remained in place last night as the scene examination continued.
Police Minister Stuart Nash offered his sympathies and condolences to the dead man's family saying he recognised how frightening the last few hours had been for the woman and children.
"They will receive support from Police to help them with the days, weeks and months ahead".
He said it was important to also acknowledge the "distressing impact this shooting will have on the officers involved".
"We trust Police to make the best decisions in extreme situations. Police put themselves in harm's way in order to keep the public safe. This will stay with them."