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Fatal shooting of Mr Witika in Auckland justified – IPCA

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that officers were justified in shooting Mr Witika outside his burning house in Glen Eden.

On the morning of 29 November 2021, Police received reports of a house fire where gunshots had been heard and reports of a man with a gun at the same address. Public Safety Team officers drove to the address and the Police helicopter arrived overhead. Officers set up cordons around the property and cleared surrounding houses. They began appealing to Mr Witika, who was standing under a carport down a 20-metre driveway adjacent to the burning house. He was armed with a shotgun, which he intermittently picked up and put down.

A team from the Armed Offenders Squad arrived about 17 minutes after the first officers arrived. The team leader received a hurried briefing, then, less than three minutes after arriving, ordered his team to deploy sponge rounds, a Police dog, and a distraction device to facilitate the arrest of Mr Witika. The tactics were not successful. Mr Witika picked up his shotgun and retreated through the gate into the grounds of the burning house. The Police dog followed Mr Witika into the yard, where it was attacked by Mr Witika’s dog.

The AOS team advanced down the driveway to under the carport. Three AOS officers were positioned in single file in a narrow area, with limited ability to take cover. The first officer saw Mr Witika bringing the barrel of his shotgun up to point at him. That officer fired three shots, before being knocked backwards by a shot fired by Mr Witika. Another officer then stepped in and fired, believing Mr Witika was about to shoot him. Mr Witika fell to the ground and that officer then fired a shot to incapacitate Mr Witika’s dog, who had latched onto the Police dog.

Meanwhile, an officer on a cordon was observing the exchange from a side street. He saw Mr Witika advancing towards the AOS officers and saw officers falling backwards after Mr Witika fired a shot. He believed there was no other option but to shoot through fence palings from a distance of about 15 metres.

Mr Witika suffered multiple gunshots wounds and died at the scene. Three officers were injured, having been shot by Mr Witika.

The Authority has found that the Police shootings were justified, and the AOS team was justified in deploying sponge rounds and a Police dog against Mr Witika. However, there were inadequacies in the command and control of the incident which resulted in a decision-maker who was not sufficiently removed from the immediate threat to be able to provide sound guidance and direction as to what the circumstances reasonably required.

 

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