Armed man arrested after bank siege

SIMON DAY, ANDREW BEACH
Last updated 22:18 17/06/2013
Penrose, Auckland
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ

EMERGENCY RESPONSE: Police and ambulance staff at the cordon around an incident in Penrose, Auckland where a man was holed up in a bank threatening self-harm.

Armed Offenders Squad members stand down after a bank siege in Penrose, Auckland.
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
ALL OVER: Armed Offenders Squad members stand down after a bank siege in Penrose, Auckland ended without anyone being hurt.
Auckland bank holdup
HOLD UP: Westpac bank is on the ground floor on the side where the arrow is pointing. Orange squares indicate road blocks.
Armed police
JACINTH GUTLA
ON THE MOVE: An armed policeman at the scene of the police activity.
Armed police
JACINTH GUTLA
WATCHING: Police have surrounded the bank.

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An armed stand-off between police and a wheelchair-using gunman has ended after the man left the Auckland bank he was holed up in and surrendered to police.

The surrender ended a five-and-a-half hour drama in which nine bank workers were confined in the Westpac bank by the man, who entered the Great South Road branch in Penrose about 4.30pm.

The 41-year-old, who police earlier said was known to health authorities, left the bank just before 10pm, after police warned him they would release dogs into the building.

Police slowly drew the man from the building speaking to him over a loud speaker.

"Shaun, we need to finish this now. Good work, Shaun, thanks mate. Come toward me, Shaun," they called.

The man was arrested without incident and taken to Auckland Central Police Station where he will be held overnight.

Police say it is likely he will be charged with firearms offences. He will appear in court on Tuesday.

''During the five hour ordeal the man asked to speak to a friend but the nominated friend was unable to be located,'' a police spokeswoman said.

''No shots were fired throughout the incident which was eventually resolved by direct negotiation.''

Police were earlier heard calling for the man to ''come out with your hands up and leave the gun behind" over a loud speaker.

Police then said: "We will send the dogs in and they will bite you. . . We are here to help you.''

Another voice called on the man to raise his hand ''if you can hear me''. ''Shaun, we need to finish this now."

Earlier in the evening, police negotiators and the Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) were in contact with the man by phone.

Ten children who were in lockdown in a Lollipops Educare centre in the building, along with three staff, were safely evacuated.

Earlier, teacher Maria Doudhat said the children ranged in age from one to five-years-old, and most of them had their parents in the centre with them.

Nine bank staff who were in the building were released unharmed during the afternoon and it is thought they were not directly threatened by the man, believed to be a 41-year-old who arrived at the bank in a wheelchair.

The District Commander of Auckland City Police, Mike Clement, told Radio New Zealand none of the bank workers had been directly threatened by the man.

Clement said the man was “known to the health system”, and police would take as long as necessary to resolve the situation.

Earlier witness reports

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An eyewitness, who was working in a neighbouring building and who asked not to be identified, said he was told by police to leave his workplace. “Through the window of the bank I could see the guy sitting down pointing a gun at his head.”

He said it was a handgun.

At first the witness thought the man was sitting on a couch, but then saw that he was in a wheelchair, which he was moving around the bank in.

He said that at about 5.50pm the staff walked out of the bank and around the corner of the building, to where police were waiting.

The area has been cordoned off since 4.30pm.

People working in adjacent offices were initially trapped inside their buildings and were told to stay away from the windows.

"There are commando people hiding in the bushes with guns," said Jacinth Gutla, a software engineer who worked on the floor above the bank.

"We are allowed to leave now. But advised to leave in groups and only though the exit on the opposite side of great south road," he said.

He could see two armed officers from his window that looked out onto Great South Rd from the Central Park building in Penrose.

"It's scary but exciting in a way," Gutla said.

Motorists are advised that Great South Rd is closed between the motorway on-ramp near One Tree Hill College and Rockfield Rd in Penrose.

- Stuff

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