A Whangārei police officer shot at by a fleeing drunk driver has struggled with the incident as it echoed the death of his police college classmate Auckland constable Matthew Hunt.
Hunt, 28, was shot during a traffic stop in West Auckland on June 19 this year.
Judge John McDonald shared the admission as he sentenced Jeffery Cassidy, 23, of Auckland, to seven years prison with no minimum parole for five charges that included shooting at law enforcement, driving in a dangerous manner, failing to stop, and driving with breath alcohol level over 400 micrograms.
Judge McDonald said Cassidy's sentence needed to deter people from shooting at police, the number of which have climbed in Northland.
September's shooting was the first in a spate of five incidents where officers have been fired at in Northland.
"In no way should the effects on the victims be downplayed because they're members of the New Zealand police."
Yesterday's sentencing at the Whangārei District Court – Cassidy's second conviction on firearm charges – comes after he earlier pleaded guilty to firing multiple shots with a .303 sawn-off rifle at officers during a late night pursuit on September 2.
Judge McDonald said a victim impact report from one of the three officers fired at outlined how Cassidy's actions reminded the experienced constable of Hunt's death.
"The incident still plays on his mind. He went through police college at the same time as Matthew Hunt so that impacted upon him."
His 25-year-old police partner, also in the vehicle when shots were fired, experienced prolonged anger and sadness since the incident, McDonald said.
"She was extremely angry that you tried to take her life," McDonald said to Cassidy in the dock.
The shooting unfolded when police attempted to stop the vehicle being driven at excessive speeds by Cassidy around 11.30pm in Ōtangarei.
During the chase along Kamo Rd Cassidy fired at the following unarmed officers, who abandoned the pursuit because they were concerned about having no means to protect themselves, Judge McDonald said.
The officers involved called for back-up. Police dog handler and senior constable Peter Kinane was dispatched to stop the fleeing vehicle with Cassidy and his passenger Tama-Parei Himiona Parata.
Despite the vehicle being successfully spiked near the intersection of Mackesy Rd and Riverside Dr, Cassidy continued to drive towards the city centre. As he made his way through the roundabout by Dave Culham Dr he fired at Kinane, who was around 30m behind Cassidy's car.
"The driver came out through the driver's window, pushed himself out, took aim, pulled the trigger. There was a loud bang, a huge muzzle blast and flame came out of the barrel," Kinane said. "It was a huge shock."
Kinane said he could feel the muzzle blast from the high powered rifle come through the open windows on his vehicle.
A second shot was fired at Kinane's vehicle, of which he was the sole occupant, as Cassidy drove up Fire Brigade Hill (Dent St) in central Whangārei. The bullet struck the front left headlight and penetrated the air filter.
"I hit the brakes pretty hard when the shot went off."
Kinane said Cassidy attempted to shoot him two more times but the gun was jammed and he could not get it to work.
In a disputed facts hearing, prior to sentencing, Cassidy denied deliberately aiming the firearm at police. Instead he claimed he fired two warning shots towards the ground to deter officers from following him.
Cassidy, who had drunk 27 cans of seven per cent alcoholic bourbon and cola mixes, told the court he struggled to recall the night's events.
Kinane said he knew Cassidy was going to open fire when he saw Parata hold the steering wheel from the passenger side. Cassidy would take the gun from beside the gear stick and climb out the window from the waist up so he was level with the car's roof.
"The driver took aim, looked down the sight at me and fired," Kinane said.
Judge McDonald sided with Kinane's version of events as he decided it would not have been possible to fire the .303 sawn-off rifle that weighed 3.3kg, multiple times with one hand.