Jail avoided because of wheelchair

A man who threatened to kill two police officers has avoided jail because he was left a paraplegic when one of them shot him.

David Andrew Taite, 49, of Opotiki, yelled at the officers: "I've got a gun, and I'm gonna kill you." What appeared to be a gun barrel in his jacket turned out to be a whisky bottle.

It can now be revealed that Taite has a previous conviction for attempting to murder a police officer by threatening him with a shotgun more than 20 years ago in Wairoa. He was sentenced to seven years' jail in 1989.

After his sentencing in Napier District Court yesterday, he maintained he did not have anything against the police.

"There are some real good police, especially in Opotiki. They look after me."

He was not angry at the unnamed officer who shot him. "You've just got to go ahead and live."

When asked if he forgave the officer, he said: "In a way . . . but I still want reparation."

The shooting happened in Otane, central Hawke's Bay, in October last year, when two Hastings officers stopped a car just after midnight after sightings of Taite, who was wanted on burglary charges.

The officers, who have permanent name suppression, believed he was pointing a gun barrel at them through his jacket. One of them shot an agitated and advancing Taite in the torso.

He fell to the ground but continued threatening the pair, claiming he had a grenade on him.

He then pulled the whisky bottle from his pocket and threw it at the officers. They restrained him and gave him assistance while they waited for an ambulance to arrive. His injuries left him a paraplegic.

Judge Brooke Gibson found Taite guilty of threatening to kill the officers. But he dismissed two charges of presenting a whisky bottle as a firearm because Taite did not brandish or display it.

He was sentenced to 8 months' home detention on two charges of threatening to kill, unlawfully taking a vehicle, dangerous driving and two burglary charges.

He was also disqualified from driving for six months, although it is unlikely he will be able to drive again.

Judge Gibson said that, if it was not for his disability, Taite would have gone to prison.

He is paralysed from the waist down, and needs to use a colostomy bag. He is cared for by his sister, and by medical staff provided under ACC.

He said life in a wheelchair was a struggle but the recent arrival of his first grandson kept him in good spirits. He had given up alcohol and turned his hand to carving wood to stave off boredom.

Police Association regional director Emmet Lynch said the sentence was "in line" with the charges, but the difference was that it caused officers to fear for their lives and take extreme actions.

He acknowledged there were significant "restrictions" when sentencing someone with a disability.

The officers had "recovered well" but the incident had taken its toll.

"A number of police are faced with this sort of situation on a weekly basis throughout New Zealand, and we must remember we need to give our police proper support."

Contact Tracey Chatterton
Hawke's Bay reporter
Email: tracey.chatterton@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @trackchatt

The Dominion Post