Friday, July 19, 2024

Dunedin officers awarded for bravery in supermarket stabbing

Two Dunedin police officers who played vital roles in stopping a knife-wielding attacker in a local supermarket last year have been awarded the 2022 Police Association Bravery Award.

Constable Sophie Allison and Detective Constable Jeremy Toschi were today presented with their awards by Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern at the association’s annual conference in Wellington.

The award recognises outstanding bravery performed by police officers in carrying out their duties, on or off the job.

The Prime Minister’s citation set out the timeline at the Dunedin Central Countdown in which Constable Allison was off duty and shopping, and DC Toschi was in plainclothes and in the supermarket to buy his lunch.

The citation (below) describes the “frenzied, unprovoked attack…in which the offender had tried to kill two Countdown employees and two members of the public causing them life threatening injuries.”

In her statement on the chaotic scene, Constable Allison described “the type of screaming that makes your stomach sink…he had a knife in each hand…I realised he was stabbing people. He was intentionally going for people’s necks.”

The association’s Bravery Award panel, which includes Dame Annette King and Sir Anand Satyanand, considered that the courageous actions of the officers, along with supermarket staff and members of the public, unquestionably prevented this highly motivated offender from killing and/or inflicting further serious injury on staff and members of the public.

Constable Allison says receiving the award is an “absolute honour”. She says the fact that she was nominated for the award by her colleagues makes it “really special and a genuine honour.”

DC Toschi echoes those sentiments and says he is humbled and honoured to be receiving the award.

“I am really grateful that my family can be present especially my son who was very nervous about going into supermarkets in the months following.”

Both officers applauded the actions of supermarket employees and members of the public, without whom “the outcome could have been a lot worse”, and they hope there will also be public recognition of that.

Association president Chris Cahill says this year’s award highlights a value New Zealanders hold dear – coming to the aid of others.

“Members of the public, Countdown staff and the two police officers have all responded with great bravery when action was required. They worked together to save lives and prevent further injury, and all involved should be incredibly proud of themselves.”

CITATION FOR BRAVERY – delivered by Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern.

Constable Sophie Allison, Detective Constable Jeremy Toschi

On the 10th of May 2021, Constable Sophie Allison and Detective Constable Jeremy Toschi were, unbeknownst to each other, shopping in the Countdown Dunedin Central Supermarket.

Constable Allison was off duty and DC Toschi was in plain clothes and on his lunch break. Neither officer had appointments on them at the time.

Constable Allison heard panicked screaming from the next aisle and without hesitation raced to where the screams were coming from. She saw a person lying on the ground and a lot of blood on the floor. It was a chaotic scene with people running and shouting.

The offender had stabbed a female Countdown staff member and attempts were being made by others to restrain him.

Constable Allison observed the offender swinging his arms at a second person but what initially looked like punching was in fact another stabbing, this time of a male Countdown staff member who was attempting to restrain him.

The offender managed to break free and stabbed a third person who had come to assist. He then grabbed a female member of the public and stabbed her multiple times before returning his attention to a male victim lying on the floor.

The offender then advanced towards Constable Allison brandishing the knife before focusing his attack back on the female. Constable Allison rushed at the offender and attempted to pull him off the female victim.

He lashed out at Constable Allison, contacting her head, while continuing his frenzied attack on the victim. Undeterred, Constable Allison picked up a nearby chair and thrust it on top of the offender to pin him to the ground. She threw her body weight down on top of the offender to prevent him from getting up and to restrict his movement as he was still armed with a knife and there was another knife nearby.

DC Toschi, having been alerted to the attack, had also entered the aisle and saw the offender attacking a victim. He immediately started throwing products from the shelves at the offender to distract him. He then grabbed a chair and rammed this into the offender’s upper body in an attempt to force him to release the knife he was still holding. He then grabbed the male victim who was still entangled with the offender and dragged him away before returning to assist in restraining the offender until more Police staff arrived.

Together the officers were able to restrain the offender until on-duty staff arrived, and the offender was safely handcuffed and arrested

This was a frenzied, unprovoked attack which took place in the middle of the afternoon in a busy supermarket. The attack lasted one minute and 10 seconds before the offender was restrained.

During that time the offender had tried to kill two Countdown employees and two members of the public – people he had never met — causing them life threatening injuries.

In her statement on the chaotic scene, Constable Allison described what she heard as “the type of screaming that makes your stomach sink …he had a knife in each hand … I realised he was stabbing people. He was intentionally going for people’s necks.”

The CCTV footage of the terrifying mayhem has been permanently suppressed by the Court.

The courageous actions of Constable Allison and DC Toschi along with Countdown staff and members of the public unquestionably prevented this highly motivated offender from killing and/or inflicting further serious injury on staff and members of the public in the supermarket that day.

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