Police have praised the bravery of two officers who tried to stop a gunman who died from a gunshot injury after terrorising the occupants of a Darfield house.

Police say they are not certain if the gunman shot himself or died from a police bullet.

The shooting took place in Darfield yesterday. A police officer was seriously injured when the gunman ran him over.

The injured policeman is an experienced officer with a young family.

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Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price speaks to media at the Darfield Police Station. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price speaks to media at the Darfield Police Station. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Canterbury district commander Superintendent John Price visited him in hospital yesterday and he was in a lot of pain.

It is "very lucky", Price said, that the second officer was not injured.

He praised their actions in what was a fast-moving violent incident.

"These things happen so quickly," he said.

Price confirmed the dead gunman was a 56-year-old local Darfield resident who lived at that property with his family. He was not previously known to police.

The gunman was found dead yesterday after hitting the police officer in his car while attempting to flee, before being shot at by police.

Price spoke at a press conference outside Darfield Police Station this morning.

Police were called to a violent family harm incident shortly after 4pm yesterday following reports that a 56-year-old local man was threatening his family with a loaded firearm which he has "discharged multiple times".

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Two police officers responded and drove towards the rural Bangor Rd property.

They parked a short distance down the road and were walking towards the property and assessing the situation when the gunman drove out of the property at speed.

Price said the gunman drove directly at the two officers.

One policeman was struck by the vehicle and thrown into the air before landing on the ground.

He has suffered serious injuries including multiple leg fractures. He remains in hospital today in a stable condition and is awaiting surgery.

After the attack, police have fired at the vehicle, Price said.

The vehicle drove down the road, did a U-turn and drove back at the officers, he said.

"The vehicle has then come to a stop of its own accord," Price said.

Two other police officers arriving at the scene, found the man dead in the car.

Price said the officers were not laying road spikes when the man drove at them, correcting earlier reports.

A "robust and thorough" investigation was ongoing and the incident been referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

The dead man's family has been offered victim support and a police family liaison officer has been supporting them.

"This is a terrible situation for all concerned," Price said.

"The community of Darfield and rural Canterbury will be absolutely shocked by this incident, as we all are.

"But I can reassure them and the wider public that their safety remains paramount."

Price praised the actions of the two local police officers who responded yesterday.

"I'm very proud of their actions and what they did," he said.

"Police officers go to work every day to do a great job and ensure public safety and protect all members of their community from harm.

"An incident like this is the absolute last thing that any police officer wants to happen on their shift."

Price said the man appears to have died from a gunshot wound but it was not clear if it was fired by police officers.

The Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) had not arrived by the time the man died.

He described it as a "dynamic and extremely fast-moving critical incident".

Children receiving counselling

Meanwhile, in a newsletter to parents, Darfield High School principal James Morris said the school community was saddened to learn today that the shooting incident yesterday in Bangor Rd involved a family with students who attended the school.

"The school has offered support to the family and their children. We are working with staff and students who may be upset and keeping an eye out to assist where needed."

The Ministry of Education had been in contact with the school to help as required, he said.

A man died yesterday after hitting the police officer in his car while attempting to flee, before being shot at by police.

The man was found dead soon after in his car near the Canterbury town. Details of the circumstances surrounding the man's death are still unclear.

Injured officer requires surgery

The injured officer was transported to Christchurch Hospital in a serious condition and today was awaiting surgery, Price said.

"The officer has multiple fractures and is being supported by family and police."

Just after 4pm yesterday police responded to an address on Bangor Rd after a man reportedly threatened a family member with a firearm.

Police said someone in the house reported the armed man had fired a weapon several times and tried to enter the house by shooting through the door.

Armed offenders squad members lay road spikes in a bid to stop the man leaving in a vehicle.

"As the officers were laying the road spikes, the man drove the vehicle toward one of the officers, hitting him and causing a serious leg injury," Price said.

"He was then shot at by police and was found deceased in his car on Bangor Rd a short time later."

Local residents earlier reported hearing gunshots and seeing multiple police cars, dog units and a helicopter rushing through town.

Darfield High School principal James Morris told the Herald the incident unfolded around 100-200m down the road from the school.

A police cordon was still in place this morning.