The man who previously admitted to murdering Constable Matthew Hunt had an offended edge to his voice on Wednesday when his own lawyer asked him if he intended to kill Hunt's partner, who was also gunned down that day.
"Did you at any stage hunt Officer [David] Goldfinch?" defence lawyer Marcus Edgar asked Eli Bob Sauni Epiha, who decided to testify on his own behalf after Crown prosecutors finished presenting evidence against him earlier in the day.
"No, absolutely not," the defendant replied from the witness stand, adding that he was merely trying to scare the officer away.
"I wasn't trying to take him out. I just wanted him to gap it so I could gap it. If I wanted to kill him, I could have done it right there. It was never my intention to kill him."
Epiha, 25, is on trial at the High Court at Auckland for attempted murder, even though he has acknowledged he was the one who shot at the unarmed constables that day, hitting both men with four shots each. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to Hunt's murder — although he contends it was due to recklessness rather than murderous intent — and to dangerous driving that day that injured a bystander in the West Auckland neighbourhood where the shooting rampage took place.
The defendant told jurors his troubles on the morning of June 19, 2020 started when he got a call from his startled brother stating that gang members were on their way to his brother's house to "tax" — or steal from — the family.
"So I decided to arm up," Epiha said, explaining that he went to a man's house and picked up the military-style semi-automatic firearm that was later used to kill Hunt and injure Goldfinch. "I planned to scare the gang members away from my family house where my nieces and nephews are. I just wanted to scare them away and tell them to never come back to my family house."
But as he was driving to his brother's house, the constables decided to pull him over. Epiha said he decided to flee but crashed moments later. He grabbed the gun from the car, he said, after Goldfinch showed up and started yelling at him to show his hands.
"He was flexing, you know. He was being aggressive — just trying to demand. I told him a few times: 'Get in your car and f*** off,'" Epiha told jurors, explaining that he didn't want to turn his back to the officer.
"He was just getting too close and yelling at me...so I gave him a warning shot."
The nine shots that followed, he insisted, were never meant to hit the officer — only to scare him off. After Goldfinch did run out of his eyesight, he said he went back to the crashed car to retrieve the other gun.
"It wasn't my guns," he explained. "I had to get them back to the owner."
It wasn't until Epiha's own lawyer finished questioning him that he spoke, reluctantly, about Constable Hunt's death. He initially refused, insisting that's not what the trial is about. But he relented after Justice Geoffrey Venning instructed him to answer the questions.
Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey pointed out during his questioning that Hunt had been shot from behind.
"Did that make you feel good?" the prosecutor asked.
"Absolutely not," Epiha responded.
"Then why did you pull the trigger the next time?" Dickey shot back.
"Do you remember the fourth shot you fired into his back?" the prosecutor continued. "Did that make you feel good?"
Epiha responded: "There was nothing good about anything that happened that day."
The prosecutor didn't accept the answer.
"Every shot you fired at police could have been your last shot...but you kept pulling the trigger because it felt good," he suggested. "The one thing you wanted to do that day was kill a police officer."
Epiha responded: "I don't consider it an achievement at all."
Jurors also heard from co-defendant Natalie Jane Bracken on Wednesday, although it was through an interview with police that was recorded on the day of her arrest. She is charged with being an accessory to murder after the fact because she drove Epiha away from the crime scene that day.
Neither co-defendant knew each other prior to that day, they both contend.
Bracken, 31, told police she was having tea and a cigarette with a friend that morning when she heard a loud crash and went outside. She initially helped the injured bystander, she said, adding that she then watched Epiha shoot the constable who was running and shoot another officer who was already lying in the street.
When he pointed the gun in her general direction, demanding a ride, she said she complied.
"I was just trying to save everyone," she said through tears.
"He just shot at the cops. Why would he not shoot at us? What can I do?"
Prosecutors will have an opportunity to continue questioning Epiha today.