Hamilton police chase ends in gunfire
MIKE MATHER, MATT BOWEN AND DONNA-LEE BIDDLE
A gunman allegedly tried to drag a woman out of her car before shooting himself and a police dog handler, following a dramatic pursuit through the streets of Hamilton.
One of the policemen tackled the man to the ground in the car park of Pak'n Save in Mill St before he, along with the suspect, was injured by the sawn-off shotgun which discharged as they were wrestling on the ground.
The actions of the officer who tackled the fleeing man have been described as ''courage of the highest calibre'' by Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
The man, who was seriously injured, was understood to be 35-year-old Zeb Lee Sonny McCallion of Rangiriri, who police allege is the gunman who burst into a Kihikihi home, threatened a family and stole a car. Earlier he had pointed a gun at a police officer responding to a burglary at another address.
Both the man and the police officer were taken to Waikato Hospital for treatment. Their injuries were not life threatening, police said.
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Huntly couple Mark and Linda Strongman had just arrived at Pak'n Save with their nine-month-old granddaughter Maia when a horde of police cars drove up Mill St and turned into the carpark at 11.25am.
''I saw the van come around the corner at a hell of a rate,'' Strongman said as police secured the scene moments later.
''He slammed the brakes on and he leapt out. I thought he had a crowbar in his hand but it wasn't, it was sawn off shotgun.'' Strongman said a police officer tackled the gunman but couldn't hold him.
"There was a woman in that little car in the servo, a little [elderly] woman sitting there on her own and he was trying to haul her out to get into her car. She was stunned. He had her by the scruff of her neck [still holding the shotgun] and she was hanging onto the steering wheel sticking her backside into the seat.''
About four police officers tackled the gunman beside the woman's car, Strongman said, and a scuffle ensued.
''They got just around the self service sign then we heard the gun go off. It was really loud, you can imagine what it did, it echoed. Linda was panicking I said, don't worry, it's a shotgun it can't reach here, we're cockies anyway.''
Their biggest concern was their granddaughter's's safety.
Strongman said the gunman appeared to be in an ''aggressive'' state while the police were ''certainly pretty hyped up, ready to rock 'n'roll''.
''She was all on.''
A staff member at the nearby Helm bar also saw the drama unfold. ''The cop who grabbed him was wresting with him on the ground when the gun went off. Then a million other cops turned up and jumped on the guy. It was a pretty full on morning.''
The van involved in the pursuit had been stolen, but was tracked by its owner via GPS technology.
Haz Clarke, who did not want the company he worked for to be named, said the van was stolen from Victoria Street just before 11am, where he had been working on site.
He turned to get some tools from the vehicle and found it was missing.
''I noticed straight away as all tools for work were inside. It was stolen from a work site and the perp (offender) stole a company jacket to slip under the radar.''I am at the office and we tracked the vehicle by GPS and informed the police of the location.''
The company that owns the vehicle has been informed by police that they will get the vehicle back once police inspections are completed in about a week's time.
At a press conference this afternoon, Superintendent Bruce Bird said the sawn-off shotgun seriously injured the fleeing man and injured the officer.
''Neither injury is considered to be life-threatening and both the offender and the injured officer are currently undergoing medical treatment.''
Bush said the three officers who caught the man had put themselves at risk to protect the woman.
''The bravery of these officers in tackling an armed and dangerous offender to keep innocent members of the public from harm is in the finest traditions of the New Zealand Police.''Credit also goes to all of the other staff involved who helped to resolve this highly dangerous situation.''
Bird said police staff were also working to support the injured officer's family and provide them with anything they may need.
''On behalf of the Waikato Police and the wider public, I would like to acknowledge the officer's actions today and those of our staff yesterday and we will look at the most appropriate form of recognition at a later date.''
Officers investigating the events of the past two days are appealing for anyone who witnessed the situation outside the supermarket to contact the Hamilton Police.
They can be contacted on 07 858 6200.
The supermarket remained open, though a Foodstuffs spokesperson said the fuel site would likely remain closed for the rest of the day.
- Waikato Times
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