A Northland policeman was justified in firing a shot at a passenger in a fleeing vehicle who was pointing a gun directly at him, an investigation has revealed.

During the 17-minute pursuit on a rural road the suspects threw items at the police car, including torches, beer bottles, a scissor jack and a gasket and the police car was rammed three times before it was unable to be driven.

The results of an investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) into the incident on February 23 last year was released publicly yesterday detailing the moments a Whangārei policeman saw the long barrel of a firearm pointed directly at him.

"I remember looking up and there was a guy like 80 per cent of his body out of the window and he was brandishing a firearm. It was a long firearm. I could see a long barrel pointed, it felt like directly at me," Officer B said during the investigation.

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The other officer, "A", who was driving, took cover behind the steering wheel as he was concerned the fleeing passenger was going to shoot and felt "extremely vulnerable". It was then Officer B drew his pistol and fired one shot.

The fleeing car was then reversed into the police car at speed.

"I kind of felt I had literally just dodged my death. Not only from the gun that was pointed at me but also the vehicle hitting the police car. My main focus was the gun but yeah it quickly switched when I realised the vehicle was about to hit us."

The drama began at 3.03am when the officers saw a Nissan Maxima pull on to Mangakahia Rd without stopping and the pursuit began in which the fleeing vehicle reached speeds of up to 140km/h.

When a senior officer was advised a shot had been fired Karaka Rd was cordoned off for a scene investigation. Photo/ File
When a senior officer was advised a shot had been fired Karaka Rd was cordoned off for a scene investigation. Photo/ File

The fleeing vehicle turned on to Karaka Rd, which was gravel, and stopped after a blind corner. The police officers came to a standstill about 20 metres away but was rammed by the fleeing vehicle before it drove off.

The officers continued and caught up to the vehicle which had stopped and it appeared a man was hanging out the back window, arms raised and brandishing a gun. Officer B fired one shot.

After the shot was fired the officers did not report the shot to their senior officer or NorthComms, the police communication centre.

Instead they continued following the fleeing vehicle and were rammed a third time with such forced it caused the boot of the fleeing car to pop open. The officers abandoned the pursuit at 3.20am as the police car was no longer safe to drive.

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They requested their senior officer come to their location as they felt the offenders could still be in the area and could "ambush" them.

When the sergeant arrived the two officers advised him there had been a shot fired and as a result Karaka Rd was cordoned off for a scene investigation.

The fleeing driver and passenger of the vehicle were never found.

Chairman of the authority, Judge Colin Doherty, found the officers involved were justified in engaging a pursuit, and the officer who fired a shot was legally justified in doing so and had complied with policy during the initial part of the pursuit.

However, they should have abandoned the pursuit after the second ramming when the fleeing passenger presented the firearm.

It was also found the two officers involved were not justified in arming themselves with pistols at the start of their shift and they failed to comply with police policy as they were not wearing ballistic body armour and they had not notified NorthComms they had firearms.

Doherty said the police duo and their senior officer should have also advised NorthComms that a firearm had been presented and a shot had been fired.

Northland District Commander Superintendent Tony Hill says in the IPCA report the officers believed they were in imminent danger of serious harm and one of them fired their pistol in self-defence.

"This incident highlights how unpredictable policing can be, and I am thankful that no police staff or member of our community was injured during this incident."

Hill said officers were making split second decisions in fast moving and often very volatile situations but they went out every day to keep the community safe.

"I always back them to make the right decision. In this case, there was no fault found in the decision making of the officers involved."