'I'd rather die trying to stop him' - gunman ordeal

06:30, Feb 10 2013
Jason Dickinson
Jason Dickinson holds the slasher he grabbed to defend his family from a gunman. Earlier his father, Rod (left), had a knife held to his throat while the entire family, including baby Lily-Jean and Jason's wife Alisha, were shot at by a gunman in Taumarunui.

A Waikato man has spoken of the terrifying moments when he and his family, including a four-month-old baby, were confronted in their family home by an armed gunman who threatened to kill them, sending a town into lockdown and sparking an armed police hunt.

Jason Dickinson says was ready to die for his wife, newborn baby and father as the man, 19, drove up to their Taumarunui home with a rifle out the window screaming , ''I'll f.....g blow your heads off''.

''I was freaking out,'' Mr Dickinson said, as he recalled the  situation that unfolded just hours earlier today.

''I thought - I'd rather die trying to stop him getting inside than him just shooting us all.''

It was one of several serious incidents in the wider Taumarunui area that put the central North Island town on lockdown for four hours as police hunted the man.

A man has been arrested following an area-wide search.


Mr Dickinson, his wife Alisha and four-month-old daughter Lily-Jean were staying at Mr Dickinson's father's home on Miro Street when, just before 9am, a ''respectable'' and ''nicely spoken'' young man walked into the yard wearing a striped shirt and blue jeans.

He asked to use the phone to call the car wreckers because he'd blown a ball joint in his car, Mr Dickinson said.

He and his father were looking for the phone number when a  neighbour rang.

''They said watch out for this young guy who looks a bit crazy going your way - the guy must have noticed the voice,'' Mr Dickinson said.

The man then whipped out a knife and held it to the 71-year-old's throat and said if Rod Dickinson did not hang up the phone he'd ''slit his throat''.

The man then grabbed Mr Dickinson's car keys and bolted out the door, leapt into the white Honda Accord in the driveway, reversed out and sped off.

Mr Dickinson phoned the police, and said he understands the armed man drove to a nearby petrol station and filled up with gas and left without paying.

The man drove back to the house where the family - including newborn Lily-Jean, were outside.

''I didn't realise how serious the situation was,'' Mr Dickinson said.

''I had a big rock and I tried to throw it through the window and hit his face to slow him down - it was probably pretty stupid.''

The man stopped up the road, jumped out with a rifle and pointed it at the Dickinson's and fired, he said.

''We were in a panic at that stage because my wife and baby were outside - was telling them to duck and get the f... inside. He jumped back in the car and spun around to drive past and we're hiding behind a little truck that was parked up.''

Mr Dickinson was in a ''highly defensive'' state. 

He had run inside and grabbed the first defensive weapon at hand, ''a great big slasher''[scythe].

''I was ready for him to try and have another go at us.''

Instead the man drove past with his rifle out the window, screaming.

Mr Dickinson, of Owhango, said he recognised the man from his days at Taumarunui High School.

Things later came to a head in central Taumarunui.

Armed offenders squads from Hamilton and Whanganui, as well as Taumarunui Police cordoned two blocks bordered by the main shopping strip, Hakiaha St, and Maata, Hikaia, Turaki and Taitua Sts.

Ruapehu i-Site manager Tania Kelland was holed up inside her train station headquarters with her son, a staff member and the cleaner under orders from armed police who set up a cordon outside.

She arrived at after 8am to inspect damage to her premises after a break in overnight on Friday.

The cleaner, who alerted her to the damage, then left heading south toward Maata St and saw police going into the Mobil petrol station, Ms Kelland said.

''Then she saw the petrol station owner indicating police to go down a certain driveway. She came back up to the i-Site and we were all outside looking down to the Mobil then all of a sudden a police car came and an armed officer got out of the car and told us to get back in the building.''

Other retailers and residents had also been told to lock themselves indoors, she said.

Police managed to arrest the Taumarunui man before noon Saturday.

Ruapehu/Whanganui Area Commander Inspector Steve Mastrovich said they believe the man committed several serious offences in a number of different locations including discharging a firearm in an ''unsafe manner."

"This is an on-going investigation and we are conducting an area canvas to determine the sequence of events that have taken place. At this stage we are looking at six scene examinations in a variety of locations.

"We are also in the process of going to every area where the man has been and performing checks on each property to make sure no one has been injured.''

There had been no reports of any members of the public sustaining injuries.

Police are appealing for witnesses and encourage the public to come forward if they have any information in regards to the investigation.

Contact the Taumarunui Police Station on (07)895-8119. Alternatively information can be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

The man will appear before the courts in coming days.