A fleeing driver who fired shots at pursuing police officers in what he later claimed was a desperate "suicide by cop" attempt has today been jailed for nine years.

Tolu Ma'anaiama, 33, was shot twice in the leg and once in the chest after police returned fire in Eveleyn Couzins Ave in the Richmond area of Christchurch shortly before 7.30pm on February 26 last year following a pursuit.

After a High Court jury trial in Christchurch last year, Ma'anaiama was found guilty on four charges of using a firearm against police.

But the jury acquitted him on charges of attempting to murder two officers.


A local resident used his cellphone to film the dramatic shootout, which led to a stretch where frontline officers were armed.

The footage, which featured multiple loud gunshots and sirens wailing, was twice played to the jury.

And today, in rejecting Ma'anaiama's claims that he was trying to get police to shoot him dead, Justice Cameron Mander said the video clearly showed the gunman was trying everything he could to get away.

"You were set on trying to escape," he said.

Tolu Ma'anaiama, 33, was jailed for nine years at the High Court in Christchurch today. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Tolu Ma'anaiama, 33, was jailed for nine years at the High Court in Christchurch today. Photo / Kurt Bayer

In seeking a sentence of preventive detention – with an indefinite period behind bars - Crown prosecutor Mitchell McClenaghan said it was lucky nobody was killed.

The trial heard how dog handler Constable Kurt Stephenson was patrolling in Aranui at around 7.20pm on February 26 when he spotted a black Holden Executive car which matched a description of a vehicle wanted by police for a shooting incident three days earlier.

But as he approached, a person appeared from the back seat, got behind the wheel, and took off.

During the following pursuit, the car's tyres were spiked and a tyre came off the rim entering Evelyn Couzins Ave - a dead-end street. It was still light on a summer's evening, with members of the public outside, the court heard.


The car came to a stop and Ma'anaiama jumped out of the car.

Stephenson pulled up about 25m away, when he says the driver faced him, with what he thought was a pump-action shotgun held in both hands about waist height.

With the muzzle "pointed directly at me", the police officer said he "immediately feared for the safety of myself and for members of the public in the area".

As the male walked a wide arc with the gun allegedly pointed at Stephenson, he got out of his police car and sought cover behind it, withdrawing his police-issue Glock pistol, racking the slide and chambering a 9mm round from the magazine into the firing chamber.

He yelled as loudly as he could, "Armed police, drop the weapon."

The man did not respond, Stephenson said, and moved behind the vehicle, emerging on the other side, still pointing the shotgun at him.

Stephenson claims a shot was fired directly at him, saying he heard the explosion of the gunshot, following by the noise of shotgun pellets being fired in his direction. He said the "distinctive whistle sounds" were like nothing he's ever heard before.

He told the jury he believed the shooter was trying to kill him.

Stephenson fired "a number of rounds" from his Glock back at the gunman but didn't think he hit him.

By then, other police officers had arrived – a total of five police officers in four police vehicles.

As the gunman again aimed the muzzle of his shotgun at Stephenson, the jury heard that the officer fired his Glock at him until he was incapacitated.

He saw his legs bend and fall down on one side, with the shotgun nearby.

While officers covered the shot man with Glocks and Bushmaster rifles, Stephenson commanded his police dog Mint to rouse, biting him on the upper right arm.

Ma'anaiama was arrested at the scene and, after receiving first-aid treatment, taken to Christchurch Hospital.

A total of 35 shots had been fired by police officers.