The identity of the man killed during a shootout with police near Kawerau yesterday has been revealed.
He was Astin Cruz Hooper, aged 29, from Te Teko.
Hooper had reportedly used methamphetamine and been involved in a family harm incident in Kawerau just before 9am. Police said he discharged a firearm at another family member before robbing the First Credit Union in Fletcher Ave.
After being seen by police sometime after the robbery, Hooper led police, and eventually officers from the Armed Offenders Squad (AOS), on a slow pursuit around rural roads in Te Teko, Otakiri and Onepu.
Hooper brought his truck to a standstill on State Highway 30 at Onepu and fired a shot at AOS officers moving toward his truck. Officers returned fire and Hooper was shot dead.
A friend of Hooper's posted on social media saying he deserved a better death than the one the "pigs" gave him.
"LOVE U ALWAYS ASTON HOOPER - SALMON," the friend wrote.
She also posted a photo of Hooper as a tribute.
Another friend replied to the post saying Hooper was a good boy who had many options of having a good life and had two awesome families.
Hooper's death unfolded outside the driveway of Don and Lyn Penwarden who, moments before, had been sitting on the deck of their home having morning tea.
Lyn Penwarden said they heard the sirens about the same time they received a phone call telling them to go inside and shut the doors.
"We did see the vehicles when they came into view and I have to say I was very impressed with how police handled things," she said.
"They got behind him and in front of him and just slowed him down. It was all very calm and controlled."
The Penwardens went inside and locked their doors before hearing the first shot.
"We heard a single shot then a few shots after that. I was telling my husband to get down."
She said neither she nor her husband were frightened.
"We both knew there were a lot of very capable police out there who knew what they were doing. I think too, because there have been two other big incidents out here lately, we've unfortunately become a bit used to it.
"There was the Onepu siege a couple of years ago when we ended up with helicopters landing in our paddock, and another shooting across the road.
"That's our three things, I'm hoping there isn't any more to come."
Penwarden said the road reopened about 11pm yesterday.
"I was going to try to find a kaumātua to bless the site but I was told that had been done last night."
Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said Hooper's family were at the site with a kaumātua about 10.30pm before the body was removed.
A woman, who did not wish to be named, said she knew Hooper as a youngster and he was more than methamphetamine and a patch.
"Astin was best mates with my younger brother when they were at school," she said.
"He grew up in Te Teko and went to Kawerau College.
"I used to take the boys to rugby when they played for the college. Astin was a brilliant player, he had unlimited potential and loved being part of the team."
She said he was always cheeky, always smiling, and had happily adopted her as an older sister.
"I was a little bit older, I went to school with one of his older brothers, Desmond, who was tragically killed in a car crash in Te Teko two or three years ago," she said.
"Desmond was in the arms of his Astin when he took his last breath."
Saying she hadn't seen Astin in the past decade, the woman said describing him as a patched Mongrel Mob member on methamphetamine was a circumstance, albeit one he he had created for himself, but it did not define who he was.
"That's just the stereotypical section of society where some people are placed by others, but people are more than that."
Police said Hooper would undergo a post mortem todayand his body would be released back to family once completed.
The Rotorua Daily Post was told Hooper had been living out of the area and had only been back in the Eastern Bay for two or three days before he was killed.
Police confirmed, at a press conference yesterday, he had recently returned to Kawerau.
The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
Police have asked for any witnesses to the incident to come forward.
Investigators believe there would have been a number of people travelling on the rural roads between Kawerau and Edgecumbe yesterday between 9am and 10.30am who would have seen the incident and may have dash cam footage from when they have driven past the incident as it unfolded.
Anyone with information or footage is asked to contact Rotorua police on (07) 349 9400. Information can also be shared anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.