Fleeing driver throws cannabis out of car window onto bonnet of pursuing police car

Jettisoned marijuana was splattered onto the bonnet of a police car during a high speed chase through Pirongia.
SIMON MAUDE/FAIRFAX NZ

Jettisoned marijuana was splattered onto the bonnet of a police car during a high speed chase through Pirongia.

Rico Opetaia was being chased at high speed by the police, with a stash of fresh cannabis in his car that he did not want to be caught with.

So he threw it out the window as he hurtled along the rural Waikato roads.

The jettisoned marijuana sailed through the air before splattering onto the bonnet of the pursuing police car.

Some of it stuck to the bonnet - giving the police an instant explanation for why Opetaia was doing his best to evade them.

The attempted dope dumping was among the details revealed when the 26-year-old Huntly man was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court on Tuesday.

He had earlier been found guilty at a defended hearing on four charges laid in response to the incident on March 20, 2015: Driving while disqualified, failing to stop for police, reckless driving and possession of cannabis.

It was at 10.52pm that night when a police patrol spotted a Toyota Camry being driven by Opetaia, heading north on State Highway 39, near Pirongia.

Opetaia drew their attention because he overtook another vehicle on a right-hand turn lane. Lights and sirens were activated, but Opetaia drove on.

He zoomed through Pirongia, doing an estimated 122kmh in the 50kmh zone.

At times it seemed he was teasing the police, slowing and appearing about to pull over, before speeding up again. 

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Opetaia reached speeds of up to 144kmh. He switched his lights off and roared around corners in the opposite lane.

Fearful for the safety of other motorists, the police broke off their pursuit and pulled over.

Not long after, the Camry was located, parked on the side of the road just north of the intersection with Rice Rd. Opetaia was nowhere to be seen.

The police deployed a police dog team to search for him. After about 30 minutes he was found, hiding in the midst of a thicket of blackberries.

As well as being unable to elude his pursuers, Opetaia had also failed to completely eliminate the evidence in his car. About seven grams of fresh cannabis was found stuffed under the front passenger seat and in the front passenger floor pan area.

Judge Merelina Burnett took heed of Opetaia's "reasonably positive" pre-sentence report, as well as the argument of his counsel Gerard Walsh, who urged her to stop short of a custodial sentence.

She opted instead for 12 months of intensive supervision, coupled with 80 hours of community work.

Opetaia was also disqualified from driving for 15 months.

 - Stuff

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