Police should not have deployed two dogs on wanted man in car says top cop

Gregory McPeake, who died while being arrested in Napier on March 13, 2015.
SUPPLIED

Gregory McPeake, who died while being arrested in Napier on March 13, 2015.

Setting two police dogs on to a man sitting in his stationary car was inappropriate, according to the country's top police dog officer.

The evidence from the Police national coordinator for police dogs, Inspector Todd Southall, was provided in the trial of four officers charged with assaulting Gregory McPeake with a weapon shortly before he died while being arrested.

The officers, whose names are suppressed, are on trial in Napier District Court accused of assaulting McPeake, 53, in the early hours of March 13 last year. The Crown claims they used excessive force by using Tasers and dogs. The defence argues they acted appropriately given the information they had at the time. There is no suggestion they caused his death.

Gregory McPeake was shot twice with an X2 Taser.
Ross Giblin

Gregory McPeake was shot twice with an X2 Taser.

McPeake had driven from New Plymouth to his parents' home in Hastings, where he used a baton-like weapon to seriously injure his 76-year-old father, Ray.

READ MORE:

Scrutiny of police actions prior to arrest of man who died
Footage of the violent last moments of Gregory McPeake's life shown to jury
Lawyer urges jury to put themselves of officers on trial for assault
Police officers to stand trial for assault
Police force excessive, says dead man's daughter
Man who died during arrest 'had a weapon'

Bianca McPeake gave evidence as a Crown witness in the prosecution of police officers.
CHARLOTTE CURD/ FAIRFAX NZ

Bianca McPeake gave evidence as a Crown witness in the prosecution of police officers.

Hours later he was found sitting in his car at a car park in the Napier suburb of Westshore. 

Police knew McPeake was a large man who may be drunk and violent, may be armed with a crossbow and could be suicidal.

McPeake, who weighed 179kg,refused to get out of his car as requested multiple times. 

Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk said the four unnamed officers' use of force on McPeake was excessive.
DAVID UNWIN/ FAIRFAX NZ

Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk said the four unnamed officers' use of force on McPeake was excessive.

Officers smashed his car's windows and used pepper spray, but this had little effect. They then used two dogs and two Tasers but these failed to get him out of the car. Eventually he was manhandled out of the driver's seat. He was handcuffed and arrested but died a short time later.

Ad Feedback

Southall told the court police were not trained to deploy dogs into vehicles due to the confined space, the fact the offender could attack the dog, or drive away, or may have another dog in the vehicle.

"Deploying two dogs into the vehicle in this situation was inappropriate," Southall said, after being shown footage of the incident taken on Taser camera.

Police at the scene in Westshore, Napier, where McPeake died while being arrested.
JOHN COWPLAND/ FAIRFAX NZ

Police at the scene in Westshore, Napier, where McPeake died while being arrested.

"The threat [from McPeake] was at most, in my opinion, actively resisting. But that was it. Opening the door and allowing the dog to bite was not necessary... There were other options," he said.

"The option for both guys would have been for both guys to have just hold. The threat Mr McPeake posed to the guys was able to be controlled... when they backed away the threat was negligible".

He said the best option would have beennot to deploy the dog.

McPeake died when he fell out of his car, was pinned down and arrested.
JOHN COWPLAND/ FAIRFAX NZ

McPeake died when he fell out of his car, was pinned down and arrested.

Just because pepper spray and Tasers had not worked it did not mean dogs should be deployed, he said.

"We always need to keep reassessing the situation as it's unfolding and I don't think that was done in this situation," he said. 

Once the keys had been removed from McPeake the threat of assault or GBH was gone and the correct option was to "hold".

"You are not going to get a 179kg person out of a car with a 30kg dog. It's not going to happen," Southall said.

He said there appeared to be no plan in the event McPeake refused to get out of the car.

There was very little communication or coordination after the car's windows were smashed and "it appeared to be more individualistic rather than communicated. It was heated, yes, but it was possible to communicate about other options," he said.

The trial, before Judge Phillip Cooper, began last Tuesday and was expected to end in coming days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback