A man wanted for an attack on his elderly father appeared to be possibly trying to grab a weapon as police launched an arrest in which the man died at a beachside Napier carpark, a jury has been told today in Napier District Court.
The evidence was given by the officer-in-charge of the arrest attempt on the third day of a trial in which four other officers are charged separately with assaulting wanted man Gregory McPeake with a weapon in a Westshore Beach carpark early on the morning of March 13, 2015.
Including reminders from Judge Phillip Cooper, the jury of six men and six women has been told there was no causal link between anything the officers did and the death of Mr McPeake.
At 179kg, he has been described as being morbidly obese with a heart condition and who at the time had taken a potentially lethal array of drugs and been drinking.
Although having little or no criminal history, he had also at the time been wanted by police for several hours since attacking his parents in their Hastings home, about 6.15 the previous evening.
During the attack father Raymond McPeake, 76, was struck from behind with a cosh, and he was hospitalised with head and spinal injuries.
Glenn Baker, acting section sergeant at Napier at the time, told the court of the plans made to effect the arrest after a traffic constable came across the vehicle in a carpark off The Esplanade, just north of the Westshore Surf Lifesaving Club, with the knowledge of the events earlier in the night and the possibility McPeake could have a crossbow in the vehicle.
The officer who had found the vehicle did not know if anyone was inside, but retreated and laid road spikes across the car park exits to confine the vehicle in the area.
Mr Baker said officers assembled in a street a few hundred metres from the car and were briefed before a group headed towards the vehicle, Mr Baker in a patrol car using its lights to illuminate the scene.
Officers had OC Spray and Taser X2 equipment if needed to subdue the "subject", and also had batons, while one officer had a rifle, another a pistol, and boltcutters were available to break into the vehicle if necessary.
Mr Baker said as the party neared the silver, two-door Honda SUV he could see the frame of a person in the vehicle and used a loudhailer: "Driver in silver car. This is the police. Get out of the vehicle. Show me your hands."
He said he called at least five times, and then made further calls: "You are under arrest. Get out of the vehicle. Show me your hands."
There was no response, but he said he saw the "subject" turn and look at him, and he was sure the man was aware what was happening.
Mr Baker said he saw the man lean down in the vehicle, and he thought the man may have been "accessing a weapon".
The man also put a container to his mouth from which he appeared to be drinking or inhaling, and the man then turned up the radio in the vehicle.
Then followed the use of the boltcutters to break the driver's side window, and officers grappling with the man, who was sprayed and tasered, as officers and dogs tried to get him out and cuffed.
Ultimately the man was forced out, falling to the ground and becoming unresponsive and dying despite first aid and medical attempts to keep him alive.
Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk, of Palmerston North, and four barristers separately representing the accused, have all said the case is about whether the force used in the arrest was excessive or appropriate in the circumstances.
Earlier today, the policing by the accused officers in careers stretching to over 20 years was praised by the night's area commander, who was based in Hastings at the time.
The accolades were delivered by Sgt Glenn Burrell who spoke of two longer-serving officers as the best he'd come across in their roles.