Armed cops pounce after misunderstanding
Armed cops pounce on man in wheelchairTRACEY CHATTERTON
HAWKE'S BAY REPORTER
Sickness beneficiary Marc McCloud thought he was popping down to his local ACC office to see his case worker.
"I'll come down and show you," he said of a disputed document.
But the case worker thought he said, "I'll come down and shoot you."
So when Mr McCloud arrived in his wheelchair at ACC's Lower Hutt branch, the armed offenders squad was waiting for him.
As he wheeled himself into the foyer, staff fled in panic. "Everyone was running out the door, I thought it was a fire alarm," Mr McCloud, 35, said yesterday.
Armed police then swarmed the building and arrested him at gunpoint.
He is still barred from visiting his case worker because of the incident, more than six months after police dropped a charge of threatening to kill.
The misunderstanding arose because Mr McCloud, who has been in a wheelchair since developing a brain tumour when he was 22, has a speech impediment as a result of his illness.
He is limited to 80 per cent use of his body and also suffers from poor balance, double vision and shaking hands. He does not own a gun.
"I don't know how I could have shot someone," he said yesterday.
On July 6, he rang case worker Bruce MacKay to ask about his taxi allowance because he wanted to take his cat to the vet.
He lost his temper when he was told he was entitled to only one free taxi a week. He had a document saying he was entitled to more.
"I'll come down and show you," he said in his slurred speech.
His carer overheard the conversation and later told police he never heard anything about a gun or shooting.
Wellington lawyer Jonathon Miller prepared Mr McCloud's defence but in November police dropped the charge.
Mr Miller said the case would have come down to witness evidence, because there was no recording of the conversation.
"The police have sensibly come to the decision that there wasn't sufficient evidence for an offence.
"There's been an overreaction by an ACC case manager here. I mean, knowing that the man has slurred speech through brain injury, he [Mr MacKay] really should have made absolute sure of what he was hearing before setting the armed offenders squad on his client."
Mr McCloud said he was relieved the charge was dropped, but was frustrated that he still could not meet his new case worker face-to-face.
An ACC spokeswoman said Mr McCloud had been a client since 1999 and ACC would continue to work with him to support his needs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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