Saturday, August 17, 2013

Police firearms training questioned after accidental shooting - TVNZ

Police firearms training is under the spotlight after a Hawke's Bay man was accidentally shot in the back by an officer as he was being arrested.

Iriheke Te Kani Manu Pere, 33, was injured when a firearm was accidentally discharged yesterday and is a serious but stable condition in Wellington Hospital.

Civil Liberties Lawyer Barry Wilson wants to know how such an accident could have happened at the hands of a "specially trained sharp shooter".

Mr Wilson said there have been too many horrifying incidents involving police firearms.

"It raises real questions about systemic issues. What is the quality of the training of these men who are trained to deal with this kind of situation?"

Police stressed at a media conference today that the shooting was "non-intentional".

Acting Assistant Commissioner Investigations Glenn Dunbier said the firearm was "slung" across the officer's body, which is standard operating procedure.

Exactly how it was slung over his body would be investigated, as would the condition of the firearm and how it was working and the procedures followed by the AOS, he said.

Armed offenders call out

Police were called to a Karamu Road house around 5.30pm yesterday after members of Mr Pere's family became concerned about his behaviour, including his possession of a firearm.

Members of the Hawke's Bay Armed Offenders Squad arrived at the house and made an appeal for Mr Pere to come out.

He walked out of the house, as directed, and lay down on the front lawn while officers attached plastic restraints to his hands.

But when officers moved to lift Mr Pere to his feet, the Bushmaster rifle carried by an AOS member at the scene "accidentally discharged".

He was immediately given first aid by police staff and was taken to hospital by ambulance.

During scene investigations of the house, police found a firearm under a bed.

Mr Dunbier said Mr Pere was fully compliant during the arrest and that police were "devastated" the accident had happened.

"Police staff come to work every day to make their communities safer and for an incident of this nature to happen is obviously extremely distressing for Mr Pere's family, but also for police staff," he said.

Mr Dunbier said he would not discuss Mr Pere's history because it would be "inappropriate".

"It's important to remember that Mr Pere is a victim in this matter," he said

Two investigations underway

Both the police and the Independent Police Conduct Authority will conduct investigations into the incident.

The internal investigating team will also include specialist interviewers from outside the Eastern District, Mr Dunbier stated.

Police had been with Mr Pere's family last night and had accompanied them to Wellington this morning to be with him.

The family were understandably shocked but "were coming to terms with what had taken place", Mr Dunbier said.

Police this morning were speaking with local residents and any other possible witnesses to the shooting.

Forensic tests would be carried out on the firearm to determine if there was any possible malfunction.

'Terrible tragedy'

The officer involved is currently on leave and will be interviewed in due course by investigating officers, police said.

All staff who were at the scene are also being interviewed.

"The officer involved is understandably extremely upset by what has happened and we have support mechanisms in place for him. He is more concerned about Mr Pere's condition," Mr Dunbier said.

Mr Dunbier said police were also taking the incident extremely seriously.

"This is a terrible tragedy and we will be conducting a thorough and robust investigation into what took place and how the firearm came to be discharged in such a manner.

"At this point in time we cannot confirm why the firearm was discharged and whether it was human error or a firearm malfunction.

"That will be revealed during the course of the investigation. We have a lot of work to do over coming weeks to determine exactly what happened and how it happened," Mr Dunbier said.

The property where the accident happened is cordoned off and a scene investigation is underway.

Experts say Mr Pere may have grounds for civil action against police in the future.

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