Prison violence blamed for leading cop shooter Rhys Warren down wrong path
Multiple cop shooter Rhys Warren left court before he was given his sentence of preventive detention, but his mother was there to hear all the details.
Rhys Richard Ngahiwi Warren was sentenced to preventive detention when he appeared for sentence at the High Court in Tauranga on Friday on two charges of attempted murder, three of using a firearm against a law enforcement officer and one of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Preventive detention means he can be detained indefinitely and will only be released if the Parole Board deems it safe to do so. He must serve a minimum of 10 years.
Constable Regan Mauheni, Constable Damian White, Constable Andrew Flinn and Sergeant Logan Marsh were all shot by Rhys on March 9, 2016, during a siege on Onepu Springs Road, about 5 kilometres from Kawerau.
Rhys was not in court to hear Justice Timothy Brewer's sentencing. He repeatedly challenged the court's authority to judge him and decided to leave the courtroom and wait in his holding cell instead. Brewer continued his sentencing in his absence.
Fresh on his mother's mind as Justice Brewer read out the sentence was how things got to this point.
"Rhys maybe helped this happen by not letting people help him represent himself," said Renee, who didn't want her surname used. "I also think there are a lot of lies."
Renee said her son never got into trouble growing up and managed to stay away from bad influences.
"Our family never got into the gangs," Renee said.
"We were proud Rhys never joined up."
She describes Rhys as the cheeky one among her children - four boys and a girl - and always joking. He was the youngest.
One of his brothers has also been in trouble with the law after being diagnosed with drug-induced schizophrenia after a trip to Australia. He was placed into a mental health facility. That brother's car was parked at the address when the police arrived at Rhys's house.
Rhys left school early and did a carpentry course at a Tauranga polytech before getting his first proper job at a geothermal plant near Kawerau.
However, all that all changed on September 7, 2009, when he attacked a dog ranger who had come on to his property.
One week out from the trial, Rhys pleaded guilty and received just over four years in prison as a result.
"That was the first time he had been violent.
"He came out of prison an adult, but it was a false adult. He hadn't grown up properly in there."
She is also concerned that verbal sparring with her partner might have influenced her children.
"We can look back on it now, but I never thought those arguments could be leading us down this path.
"We think it doesn't affect the children, but it does."
She visited Rhys weekly and as time went on noted a stark change in her son's behaviour.
Every week he seemed to get worse as prison life became the norm.
"He got bashed twice shortly after he arrived," she said.
"On the second day, he was attacked again, but this time he fought back. He learned that you had to fight everyone to survive. Prison teaches you that."
Rhys received 16 citations during his time in jail, many for violent behaviour.
When he came out, he returned to the family home, started a vege garden and hunted. He told his mum he wanted to "stay under the radar", but Renee said his behaviour changed even more as he become more reclusive.
Rhys told Renee that he didn't want his name or address on any documents.
"He said he didn't want to be hunted down like a dog," Renee said. "That was part of his fear. He didn't want people to know where he was living.
"They said he was rehabilitated, but he wasn't."
Rhys displayed anger towards authority figures. He believed New Zealand police were controlled by the United States of America, that they had a vendetta against him and they wanted him dead.
Renee says this led him to act irrationally. She said while Rhys said the four officers shot at him first - the jury disagreed - she wondered about what actually happened.
"I feel sorry for those officers," she said. "I can understand they are angry. I would be, too."
Mauheni, White and Flinn were all injured inside the house during the gunfight, while Marsh was injured while he was stationed outside the house afterward.
The squad members were at the home because shots had allegedly been fired at or near police and a police spotter plane during a cannabis clearance operation earlier in the day
Rhys was arrested following a 22-hour siege of the property after Taupo Area Commander Warwick Morehu talked him out of the property.
Three out of the four police officers injured were present in the courtroom and read victim impact statements.
During his trial, Rhys represented himself, a decision his mother regrets.
"He did not have a proper defence by himself," she said.
"I think if we were to get a proper lawyer, things might have been different.
"But he wouldn't, because he thinks everyone is against Maori. That's what he believes. I think he picked all this up in prison."
She said she was devastated by her son's sentence.
"I can't cry any more because I have had so much of this stuff happen to our family.
"I'm becoming hardened. I do cry at home, but where you can't see it."