Police officers rewarded for efforts in arresting armed man during supermarket struggle
The sound of a gun firing in a supermarket carpark that ended with a dog handler shot remains fresh in the minds of two Hamilton police officers.
Sergeant Mark Sandford and Constable Heath Cameron were both part of the car chase that ended dramatically at Hamilton's Mill Street Pak'n Save in August 2014.
On Friday morning, the pair were recognised for their efforts in quelling an armed man who pulled an elderly woman from her car in an attempt to steal it. They received the Commissioner's Commendation award during a ceremony at Hamilton Gardens.
"It is pretty surreal - even the sound of the shotgun going off is fresh. It's something you never forget," Cameron said after receiving the award.
Sandford, a police dog team supervisor, and Cameron were two of the responding officers embroiled in a car chase that ended with one officer being shot in the foot.
It began when police spotted a stolen Hi Ace driven by fugitive Zeb Lee Sonny McCallion in Nawton on August 25.
McCallion, who's now serving 11 years in jail, was on the run from police after a run of crimes, including a violent home invasion in Kihikihi. He had also pulled a shotgun at a police officer in Te Awamutu the night before.
After a car chase into the city, McCallion abandoned a van, running to the supermarket carpark where he tried to drag a woman out of her car.
"My offsider had gone to get the dog out of the back, we didn't see exactly what occurred but we could see Zeb trying to grab the woman from the car," Sandford said.
As an armed McCallion tugged at the woman two dog handlers tackled him to the ground.
During the struggle the gun fired, shooting one officer in the foot.
"It's just one of those things that happens pretty quickly," Sandford said.
What could have been an explosive situation was thwarted by Cameron's quick thinking in activating the emergency shut down of the petrol pumps.
Both Sandford and Cameron helped to wrangle with a resistant McCallion, handcuffing him on the ground.
"I'm really proud of my dog handlers, and of Heath for his actions."
What Cameron didn't know at the time was that McCallion had previously been found with an improvised explosive device.
"Initially the job came in as a stolen vehicle - it just goes to show how some things can escalate.
"I think I'm a bit more cautious now and more aware there are people out there that carry firearms."
Other awards included Police Person of the Year, which went to Senior Constable Craig Berquist for his efforts in neighbourhood policing.