Police dog killed, officers shot in Phillipstown

Police will be given greater access to guns following the shooting of two officers and a dog in Christchurch today.

Police commissioner Howard Broad said there were "a small number of violent people in our society" and the officers were the ninth killed or injured by firearms in recent years.

"We are moving at some pace to try and increase the level of accessibility of weapons to our police officers,'' he said.

POLICE EMERGENCY: A man was arrested at a house in Buccleugh St, Phillipstown, today where shots were fired, killing a police dog and injuring two police officers.
Daniel Tobin
POLICE EMERGENCY: A man was arrested at a house in Buccleugh St, Phillipstown, today where shots were fired, killing a police dog and injuring two police officers.

Police were looking to provide officers with weapons at "much closer proximity" he said.

"My expectation is that there will be weapons immediately available to the officers. We are going to provide our officers with greater accessibility to weapons,'' said Broad.

Police Minister Judith Collins said the incident highlighted what a "dangerous and tough" job it was to be police officer.

MAP: Buccleugh St in Phillipstown.
MAP: Buccleugh St in Phillipstown.

"I am happy for the commissioner to come up with some plans as to what can be done (about arming officers),'' she said.

"It's very serious, but it's also very important we give the protection we can to police.'' Broad said he hoped to have a new policy "described and on the way to implementation" by Christmas.

 Canterbury District Commander Superintendent Dave Cliff said the two officers who had been shot were senior constable Bruce Lamb, 51, a dog handler, the second was Constable Mitchel Alatalo, 39.

Lamb was undergoing surgery after being shot through the jaw, which was shattered in four places. Alatalo was shot in the thigh left but the bullet has passed though the leg.

"The bullet has come very close to the femoral artery if that had hit that the results coud have been tragic,'' said Cliff.

Police believed the dog had been shot. "It seems the dog has actually given up its life to protect its handler,'' said Cliff.

A six-year-old german shepherd police dog, Gage, died at the scene.

Canterbury police district commander, Superintendent Dave Cliff, who was visibly upset, said the officer was shot today at an address in Phillipstown after a routine visit from police trying to track down a psychiatric patient.

Police arrived at an address in Buccleugh St and smelled cannabis.

After a search of the property, one person was taken into custody. A second person remained in the house.

The two injured officers were shot inside the house, but managed to get out and were taken to hospital.

A .22 and a .308 rifle were found at the property. A bullet passed through the face of the 51-year-old officer.

After negotiations, a second man was arrested by police.

A 34-year-old man is currently being questioned by police.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker has expressed extreme concern at this morning's incident.

Parker said all Christchurch shared his support for the injured officers and their families, as well as with the police dog handler who lost his frontline companion.

"The police do a fantastic job in Christchurch and it is so sad that they faced an attack such as this as they went about in their daily duties," he said.

"I want every officer to know that they have the support of their community at this time."

Offender shouted "How's your mate?"

Police stormed the Buccleugh St house after a report of a loud bang.

A spokesperson for St John Ambulance said paramedics attended but did not take any patients to hospital.

"Anyone who was injured was taken to Emergency Department by their police colleagues,'' they said.

A cordon blocks off parts of Cashel St, Hereford St, Linwood Ave, and Buccleugh St.

A neighbour, Matthew Pilcher, was home with his mother when the action began.

Pilcher watched the arrest unfold from his window not 20 metres away.

At about 11.30am police began to negotiate with one of the offenders.

Pilcher said he could hear the "scruffy, bearded" man shouting and swearing at police.

``He was going, `how's your mate, how's your mate?'. I think that was about the shot cop.''

Speaking to The Press at about 11.45am, Pilcher said he had seen a police dog take the man to the ground.

``I think he (the offender) put his gun on the clothes line. I saw the dog attacking him. He's stopped swearing.

``Bascially he's put it (the firearm) up there, they sent the dogs in and had guns pointing at him, three guns. Then the dog took him down.''

Pilcher said he was first alerted to the action in his neighbourhood when he heard a noise outside.

``Mum went outside and they told her to get back in.''

When he looked outside he could see three squad members carrying guns.

A nearby resident on Olliviers Road said he went to check his mailbox around 11.20am and was told to get back inside his house by a police woman.

"I hadn't heard the shots…" he said.

"But I took off back inside as fast my feet would take me."

He said the scene, around 150m from his house, was surrounded by more than seven police cars.

Another person, who declined to be named, from nearby Cashel St said they heard a single shot, saw a man doubled up outside a house in Buccleugh St and thought he had been shot.

"They had a guy down on the ground who's since been taken away. We thought he'd been shot," they said.

"It's certainly unusual at this hour of the morning around here. We heard a lot of police cars so we knew something was going on."

The police dog killed in Christchurch today was the first to be killed in the line of duty in almost three years.

It was the 23rd dog to be killed in the line of the duty since 1972 and was the sixth to be shot dead.

The last police dog killed while at work was Enzo, killed in Tauranga on August 9 in 2007.

Police Minister Judith Collins confirmed two officers had been injured, but said their injuries were not life-threatening. She also confirmed a dog had been killed.

``I am being updated as events unfold,'' Ms Collins said.

``I will be travelling to Christchurch this afternoon, and hope to visit the officers involved, and offer any support I can.

``This incident serves to remind us that the job police do in keeping the community safe can be dangerous and unpredictable.''

An eye witness told NZPA armed officers had led a man from the house and taken him away in a police car. His face was covered in blood, and his shirt and trousers were torn.

The dead dog remained in the middle of the street at lunchtime with a blue tarpaulin over it.

Some police cordons have been removed, although those within 100m of the house remained in place. A number of armed police remained at the scene.

Were you at the scene? Email reporters@press.co.nz.

The Press