Cops with guns had children 'petrified'

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 15/06/2013
Group of 12-year-olds coming home from school ran in fear of what they thought were armed police.
SCARED: Group of 12-year-olds coming home from school ran in fear of what they thought were armed police.

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A group of 12-year-olds on their way home from school ran in fear from what they thought were armed police hunting a dangerous fugitive.

Zara Hopkins, 12, was walking home from Chisnallwood Intermediate yesterday afternoon with a friend when they spotted a group of armed police dressed in black driving along Avondale Rd.

The group was soon followed by several police vehicles, also transporting officers holding guns.

Zara said she had "no idea" what was happening and feared the worst.

"We thought it was a dude doing something bad or shooting people."

She and her friend ran in the opposite direction, coming across several other friends who did not know what was going on either.

"We took like a detour because we were freaked out and we didn't want to go the other way. We were scared to go that way."

They found their deputy principal who told them they had seen a police exercise under way.

"I felt relieved but I was really annoyed they did it without telling us."

Mum Sandy Galland said she was shocked to see her "level-headed" young daughter come home shaking and crying.

"The kids are petrified. I understand they need to do these exercises, but... to be doing it in the middle of the afternoon, as a parent I'm really quite horrified this has happened."

Tactical commander Inspector Steve Mather said police apologised if anyone was frightened by the exercise.

Police had tried to let everyone in the area know about the exercise through a mail-drop, door-knocking and talking to local schools, but the message may have missed some people, he said.

"We did our best to make sure no one was alarmed."

About 70 staff had been participating in the exercise in Breezes and Avonside roads, which would finish about lunchtime today.

The group would then go within the central city cordon and to other parts of Canterbury for other training exercises until Tuesday.

Mather said the national police special tactics group had been making use of the "fantastic opportunity" to train in empty red-zoned houses.

"Historically we've had to use old government facilities built before the second world war... that bear no resemblance to modern homes that police might have to go in."

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