As unarmed Constable Matthew Hunt lay dying in the street, gunned down by Eli Epiha, he asked for help from the man who just shot him, Epiha revealed to jurors today as he testified at his own trial.
"I was thinking about it for a few seconds," Epiha said of the plea from the officer. "I'm thinking about chucking him in the police car and driving him down to Waitakere Hospital.
"When I was looking down at him, that's when I start to hear sirens."
Knowing armed police were on the way, he instead decided to leave, he said.
Epiha, 25, pleaded guilty earlier this month to Hunt's murder, although he claims he had no intent to kill the officer when he shot him. He remains on trial at the High Court in Auckland for a charge of attempted murder of Hunt's partner, Constable David Goldfinch.
The defendant first took the witness stand yesterday afternoon, the first witness for the defence. Crown prosecutors, however, only had a few minutes to cross-examine him before court was adjourned for the day.
Prosecutor Brian Dickey started the morning by continuing his tense cross-examination of Epiha, forcing the defendant to reluctantly talk about Hunt's murder again.
"I'm not prepared to discuss Officer Hunt," Epiha said for a second day in a row, claiming that he only needed to talk about the officer he was on trial for shooting at before the judge for a second day in a row told him to answer the questions.
He first noticed Hunt that morning after Goldfinch, who he shot at first, ran out of sight, he testified. He was backing up towards his crashed car, wanting to get his second gun before he ran away, he said.
"I turn around to head back to the car and that's when I got a big fright. I didn't know there was a second officer. He was just there, standing next to the boot of the car."
Why did he need to shoot the second officer, Dickey asked the defendant.
"That's just how it happened," Epiha responded. "I didn't think."
Dickey suggested the defendant was frustrated the first officer had gotten away, and Hunt presented another opportunity for him to achieve his real goal that day — to kill a police officer.
"No, I don't accept that," Epiha said.
Epiha said he didn't realise he had shot Hunt four times, which prosecutors suggested an intent to kill.
"It's not a PlayStation game," Epiha responded. "You don't know if someone gets hit. I know that now."
In a cellphone video taken by a witness immediately after the shooting, Epiha is seen looking "cool, calm and collected" as he waits to leave the scene, Dickey also pointed out.
Epiha said yesterday it only looked that way on the outside, and that he was using breathing exercises to practise mindfulness.
The defendant was also asked in detail again about the shooting of Goldfinch, who he repeatedly said he was merely trying to scare away so he could "gap it" from the scene.
"I thought he'd run away but he wasn't fazed," Epiha said.
He denied Dickey's contention that it was Epiha's voice that could be heard yelling "woohoo" prior to the first shot — a detail revealed through a CCTV audio recording of the rampage.
"For a guy not trying to kill a police officer you're doing a pretty poor job of it because you hit him [Goldfinch] four times out of five," Dickey told the defendant. "Is it just a coincidence that you're hitting him all these times — not on purpose?"
Epiha replied: "Yep, I reckon."
Charge reduced for co-defendant
Also this morning, lawyers for Natalie Jane Bracken — who has been on trial charged with being an accessory after the fact to the murder of Constable Matthew Hunt — successfully lobbied the judge in charge of the trial to reduce her charge to accessory after the fact to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Hunt had not yet been officially declared dead when Bracken, now 31, drove Epiha from the West Auckland neighbourhood where his shooting rampage took place, her lawyers contended.
Justice Venning told jurors about the change to the charge after Epiha finished testifying this morning and after Bracken's lawyers confirmed they would call no witnesses on her behalf.
Although she didn't testify, prosecutors did yesterday play for jurors her interview with police on the day she was arrested. In the interview, she said she was afraid she would be shot next. Driving Epiha away from the neighbourhood, she said, was her way of trying to save lives.
In the closing arguments that followed, prosecutors lambasted the defendant's testimony earlier in the day that he had considered helping the dying police officer.
"That's just inconceivable," Dickey said. "Of course he didn't."
He read aloud much of Goldfinch's testimony, describing him as a "remarkable witness" who jurors could see "reliving" the trauma of that day as he gave an "emphatic, believable account" of what happened.
As for Bracken, Dickey suggested her tears during her interview with police were because she was arrested — not out of sympathy for the slain officer.
After dropping Epiha off, Bracken is caught on CCTV footage driving through a petrol station where a patrol car was parked, Dickey pointed out. She could have easily flagged down the officer or approached officers at the crime scene cordon, he said.
"She could have, but she chose not to…" Dickey argued. "She said nothing. Nothing. She was just helping [Epiha]."
Lawyers for Bracken and Epiha will have an opportunity to argue their clients' cases this afternoon.