The New Zealand Police Association has rejected the finding of the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) that a police officer was not justified in shooting a shotgun-wielding Tangaru-Noere Turia in February 2021.
Association President, Chris Cahill said the Association disagreed with the key premise of the IPCA’s findings that Mr Turia did not pose an immediate threat to officers and the public when he was shot.
“The fact is Mr Turia was armed with a shotgun which he had already fired into a neighbouring house, he was clearly agitated and aggressive and had refused to comply with police directions,” Mr Cahill said.
“He advanced, with a shot gun, towards the neighbouring address and towards officers who had the partial concealment of a wooden fence, but which offered no protection from a firearm.
“Officer ‘A’ did not have the luxury of a detailed investigation or the ability to second guess what Mr Turia may have intended to do. The officer had to make an urgent decision based on the evidence that was presented: Mr Turia was armed and dangerous – had previously discharged his firearm into the neighbouring address and he showed no intention of backing down.”
Mr Cahill said the Association maintains that any delay in action would have placed Officer A and other police at the scene at an unacceptable risk of death or grievous bodily harm.
It also strongly contests the IPCA’s suggestion that Officer A could not have believed that Mr Turia posed an imminent risk when he emerged onto the driveway holding a shotgun.
“At best that suggestion is naïve, at worst blind to the reality of the threat an offender who had already discharged his firearm posed to the officers present,” Mr Cahill says.
“The mere idea that officers should be expected to take excessive risks to their lives, to the point of being shot at before returning fire, is wrong and a position the association believes is untenable to the safety of all officers and members of the public.”
The IPCA’s finding that that Officer A had a pre-determined view to shoot Mr Turia if he came out of the house armed is also refuted by the Association.
“This seems to simply ignore the officer’s statement of constantly reassessing the risk posed by Mr Turia according to the circumstances as they unfolded. It also ignores the fact that the officer did not immediately shoot Mr Turia when he came out of the house and onto the driveway,” Mr Cahill says.
“Again, the IPCA appears to ignore or play down the lethal risk the offender posed to those officers in the immediate vicinity, despite the clear explanation provided by those officers.”
The Association notes the IPCA fully accepts that Officer A has no criminal liability for the death of Mr Turia and has an absolute defence as provided by Section 48 of the Crimes Act 1961. This defence provides all New Zealanders, including police officers, with the right to use force in the defence of themselves and others. This defence completely undermines the IPCA’s view that the decision to shoot Mr Turia was not justified.
“The point here is that the circumstances of this tragic case clearly show, and the IPCA agrees, that Officer A was criminally justified in using the force, as set out in this case, for self-protection and the protection of others.”
The Association also refutes the IPCA suggestion that this defence, provided in law, can be assessed by applying a lesser (civil) standard of proof which relies on the balance of probabilities when determining the liability of an officer faced with an offender armed with a firearm.
“We are strongly of the view it is singularly a criminal standard of proof that applies to all New Zealanders, including police officers – namely beyond reasonable doubt – and the IPCA accepts this standard has not been met in this case,” Mr Cahill says.
“We acknowledge the grief and loss Mr Turia’s family has suffered and recognise that, yet again mental distress has led to the death of a New Zealander. However, to apportion any blame for that to Officer A is wrong and most unfair,” he said.