A police officer has told a coroner’s inquest that he heard Shargin Stephens ask officers to shoot him before advancing on police in the moments before he was fatally shot.
Stephens, 35, died in Waikato Hospital 12 days after he was shot near the Te Ngae Shopping Centre on July 14, 2016 after attacking an empty police car with a slasher.
A coronial inquest into his death began on November 20 and has been extended into the New Year. It follows two Independent Police Conduct Authority reports on the shooting.
The first, in 2017, found it was “legally justified” in defence of the officer and public. The 2022 report found “unreasonable and oppressive” police bail checks on Stephens may have contributed to his actions the day he was shot.
All police officers involved in the inquest have name suppression. The officer who shot Stephens has been referred to as Officer L05.
Yesterday, the inquest heard from two other police officers who were present at the time of Stephens’ shooting.
In response to questions from counsel for the police, Amanda Gordon, Officer L08 said he had followed Officer L05 in pursuing Stephens across Te Ngae Rd towards the Redwood Shopping Centre.
“Could you hear Mr Stephens being challenged by Officer L05 and L02 to drop his weapon?” Gordon said.
“Yes, I could,” L08 said.
“At that point did you hear Mr Stephens say, ‘Shoot me. Shoot me’?” Gordon said.
“Any doubt in your mind that that is what he said?
L08 said at this point Stephens focused on L05 and moved towards him, ignoring the challenges of police before he was shot.
“I recall hearing the weapon discharge.”
In cross-examination, counsel assisting the coroner, Chris Gudsell, KC, asked L08 what he thought could have been done differently that day.
“I don’t think that there’s anything different that the police could have or should have done in order to affect a different outcome.”
“What do you say the reason was for the need to shoot?” Gudsell asked.
“I’d say the reason was unfortunately because Mr Stephens ignored instructions to put his weapon down. He then focused on L05 and began advancing on him.”
Coroner Michael Robb asked L08 if it was possible that the stressful situation had affected L08′s perception of Stephens’ words.
“This account of hearing Mr Stephens say, ‘Shoot me’. In your mind’s eye, that’s exactly what he said?” Robb said.
“That’s correct,” L08 said.
“Other officers that were there haven’t recounted that. You’re unmoved in your recollection?”
“Those words to me were very clear and one of the clearest moments of that incident for me.”
Robb said L05, who was closer to Stephens at the time, did not report hearing those words.
“I can’t explain that,” L08 said.
“Mr Stephens was directly facing me at the time. I very clearly remember him saying that. He said it calmly. It’s something that is very clear to me.”
The inquest, which was originally set down for eight days, has been extended into the New Year. The date for the inquest to reconvene has not yet been set.
Coroner Robb said he hoped to issue a preliminary finding of fact before Christmas to assist the parties’ lawyers in preparing the evidence of remaining witnesses.
Robb said he would not release the preliminary finding to the public because it was subject to change and there was still evidence to be heard.
“That finding may well change in terms of what I ultimately conclude,” Robb said.
Maryana Garcia is a regional reporter writing for the Rotorua Daily Post and the Bay of Plenty Times. She covers local issues, health and crime.