Courier killed during Auckland shootout

SHOOTS FIRED: The scene of a fatal shooting on Auckland's North Western Motorway this afternoon.
JASON OXENHAM/Auckland Suburbans
SHOOTS FIRED: The scene of a fatal shooting on Auckland's North Western Motorway this afternoon.

A teenaged courier driver was shot and killed in Auckland and another man wounded after a high-speed police chase, set off by a simple bag snatch in the west of the city.

In a confusing climax on the lanes of the north western motorway near Western Springs and Auckland Zoo, events ended as police vehicles surrounded a stopped white van and a light truck.

The offender, armed with a sawn-off .22 rifle and captured at the scene, had apparently tried to commandeer one or both vehicles at gunpoint.

CRIME SCENE: The scene on the North Western Motorway in Auckland after a police chase which ended with one person being shot dead.
MICHAEL BRADLEY
CRIME SCENE: The scene on the North Western Motorway in Auckland after a police chase which ended with one person being shot dead.

The violence ended in a shootout and the death of Halatau Kianamanu Naitoko, a 17 year old courier driver from Mangere.

Police, who named the dead man late tonight, did not identify the wounded man.

At a press conference held this afternoon, Auckland City District commander, Superintendent George Fraser said it was unclear who had fired the fatal shots, raising the prospect it was the police themselves.

 "While we are aware that several shots were fired throughout the hour or so from shortly after 1pm, we do not know who fired the fatal shot."

"This is an absolute tragedy for the family of the dead man and, for that matter, the numerous members of public and Police who were drawn into it," Mr Fraser said.

He said the Independent Police Conduct Authority had been advised.

NO WAY OUT: The Auckland motorway is blocked after a fatal shooting.
SIMON DEW
NO WAY OUT: The Auckland motorway is blocked after a fatal shooting.

The whole bloody drama began with a handbag snatch in Glengarry Rd in West Auckland. From there, the armed offender drove off, but then abandoned his car, fled for a while on foot, before getting into another car and continuing his flight.

The high speed chase – believed to have reached speeds over 120 kmh – went through busy streets in Sandringham including Great North Rd, before turning onto the North Western Motorway.

The offender pulled his car sideways across the motorway then jumped the median barrier and appeared to try to hijack another vehicle. This is when the shootings took place.

STAND STILL: The closure of the motorway to traffic moving both ways caused chaos.
MARK POTTER
STAND STILL: The closure of the motorway to traffic moving both ways caused chaos.

"Shots were fired by police in response to the armed incident unfolding on the flat bed of the truck," Mr Fraser said.

"This is an absolute tragedy for the family of the dead man and, for that matter, the numerous members of public and Police who were drawn into it," Mr Fraser said.

One man is in custody after being arrested at the motorway scene by Armed Offenders Squad members. Police recovered a sawn-off .22 rifle at the scene. The offender was known to police.

MICHAEL BRADLEY/Fairfax Media

Another motorist, the driver of a light truck, was injured in the shoot out. He has been taken to hospital with non-serious injuries.

The pursuit began in Glen Eden at about 1.08pm after the driver of a car pointed a gun at an officer who attempted to stop him.

Police said it became increasingly dangerous to civilians and police as shots were fired by the offender as he travelled through New Lynn, Avondale, Kingsland, Ponsonby and Grey Lynn before getting onto the North Western Motorway.

Police said they initiated a "moving barricade" in order to put a safety buffer between the man and members of the public.

However, Mr Fraser said this was where the events took a tragic turn at this point as the man attempted to take the vehicle being driven by the shooting victim.

Police said many witnesses were helping police with their inquiries.

Fairfax employee Vicki Odell saw part of the dramatic car chase, including when the offender abandoned his vehicle and fled on foot.

Ms Odell was driving from the North Shore when she saw "loads and loads" of police taking up the whole motorway heading Westbound in pursuit of the man.

She estimated there were six to eight police cars: "There was just flashing lights everywhere," she said.

She thought the man was the sole occupant of the vehicle which had been "severely beaten - like 'I can't believe its still going and he was zig zagging all over the motorway", she said.

"I saw his door open and it seemed like he must have hesitated cos his door was open for a while and then next thing I saw the car do a hard turn to the left and he got out of the car, ran over the median barrier and crossed the other side of the road," she said.

At least three shots were reportedly fired.

The police armed offenders squad was involved.

NZPA reporter Rachel Pinder said after the shooting the dead man was lying in the back of a white van before police covered him with a tarpaulin, as scores of people watched from the side of the motorway.

"I can see 10 police vehicles and some had been damaged from the pursuit," she said.

"The residents who watched from the side of the motorway were showing a mixture of excitement, shock and curiosity."

The motorway was clear of vehicles except for the van containing the man's body, a car in front, another van alongside, and many police vehicles.

Police helicopter Eagle hovered overhead.

Several witnesses said they heard the shots which killed the man.

Kingsland residents Mark and Nick, who did not want to give their last names, saw part of the incident while sitting on the deck of their Fourth Ave property.

They heard three or four shots followed by "an array of sirens" as the police chase sped by on the motorway, with the police helicopter coming in close.

"I've never seen the helicopter so low," said Nick.

One of the vans had its rear window smashed.

Firefighters were at the scene.

Ambulance officers confirmed they had been called but said they had not taken anyone to hospital.

The motorway was expected to be closed for several hours, causing serious disruption to motorists trying to leave the city for the long holiday weekend.

Monday is Auckland Anniversary Day. Police are urging all traffic are urged to take alternative routes.

Police were expected to release details of the shooting this evening.

- with NZPA

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