Kiwi Polemicist

January 26, 2009

The police kill an innocent bystander

This post is based on current information as presented in the NZ Herald today. This is preliminary information that may change later.

Three days ago the police were pursuing a man armed with a sawn-off .22 rifle and in the process killed Halatau Naitoko, an innocent bystander. Today the NZ Herald is showing a graphic (reproduced at the bottom of this post) that maps the shooting: the gunman was on the back of the truck when he was shot. I have four comments to make:

1) The fact that the offender was carrying a sawn-off rifle says a lot. The only reason for making such a modification is to make the rifle portable, concealable, and easy to use in tight situations such as inside a car. Whilst this may be done to make the rifle a personal defence weapon, in reality it is almost always done for criminal purposes.

2) The police violated a primary rule of firearm safety because they did not have a clear field of fire. To put it another way, they fired towards a motorway full of innocent bystanders. However, the following from the NZ Herald should be borne in mind:

Mr Neville, 40, said he tried to run the offender down but the man ran to the side of the truck and leaped on the back in an apparent hijack attempt.

The gunman then aimed his .22 sawn-off Ruger rifle at him through the cab window, he said.

As armed offenders squad members shouted orders to the offender, Mr Neville hit his brakes in an attempt to slam the man into the back of the cab.

The next thing he knew there was a series of shots, with glass and bullet fragments flying everywhere.

It would appear that the gunman was presenting an immediate threat to life and it is difficult to see how else the situation could have been resolved, but I would like to know whether or not these officers complied with police protocols. Do the police consider it acceptable to shoot when innocent bystanders are in the line of fire?

3) The NZ Herald is reporting that one police officer fired his pistol, along with two officers who fired rifles. If the officer fired his pistol from the side of the motorway whilst the gunman was on the truck (and it is reasonable to make such an assumption) then in my humble opinion he is clearly in the wrong because a pistol is not sufficiently accurate at that range, and more so with a moving target. Also, he was with at least two riflemen and should have left the job to them because rifles are more accurate.

4) I do not believe that the highly politicised police can be trusted to tell the truth. Moreover, we live in a country where the Prime Minister appoints the police commissioner and the police are not accountable to the citizens in any meaningful way.

Ross Meurant has some interesting comments on Stuff :

Former police inspector Ross Meurant says the armed offenders squad member who fired the shot that killed teenage courier driver Halatau Naitoko should be tried before a court.

Mr Meurant, a former MP, told Newstalk ZB he was particularly concerned about what he called the police public relations campaign which jumped into action in the aftermath of the tragedy.

He claimed the Police Association moved into overdrive to protect police at the expense of upholding the law.


Update: I was considering adding this point when I first wrote the post and it slipped my mind: this may be a case of harm minimalisation, i.e. shooting in those undesirable circumstances was a lesser evil than letting the man continue on his way. It is very difficult to get a good outcome in such a situation.


What do you think about the police actions in this situation?

NZ Herald

Click on the photo for a larger view. Source: NZ Herald



  1. We don’t know the full facts yet. But the police need to have the freedom to use lethal force when someone is stupid enough to be trying to shoot others. Certainly in this case a bystander was killed, which is a tragedy. But accidents happen (although that is little comfort to the victim’s family). Had the police not intervened in such a way many more may have been killed by the perpetrator – you cannot know what would have happened because the police were successful in stopping the crook.

    I know KP that you may personally disagree with even having a State police force. But the fact is that we do have one, and their task is to apprehend such offenders. The same principle applies whoever was to apprehend him – if this were a shootout between a private security force and the offender, or armed citizens and the offender, accidents can still happen.

    The police are just humans like you and me. And in a stressful situation you react as best you can, and may make mistakes in the heat of the moment. But that is no reason to argue against having a gun-carrying police force, as any method of apprehending such a criminal will involve equally fallible humans.

    It may turn out that the officer who fired the shot did something extremely stupid and deserves to be disciplined. But I expect it will turn out to be a genuine accident. We must wait and see what the investigation finds.

    It is easy to judge from our comfortable chairs.

    Comment by Mr Dennis — January 26, 2009 @ 10:13 am

    • Samuel: you have a good point about the same risks arising with private police.

      It is easy for us to judge form our comfortable chairs and I have attempted to avoid doing so unreasonably.

      I’ve added this to the post, thank you for reminding me:

      Update: I was considering adding this point when I first wrote the post and it slipped my mind: this may be a case of harm minimalisation, i.e. shooting in those undesirable circumstances was a lesser evil than letting the man continue on his way. It is very difficult to get a good outcome in such a situation.

      Comment by kiwipolemicist — January 26, 2009 @ 11:49 am

  2. Why do AOS use hollow nose bullets. Had he been shot with a normal bullet he may have survived. Other police forces and army use normal bullets

    Comment by Ian — January 26, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

    • Ian: many police forces use hollow point ammunition because it is less likely to exit the target and hit another person. This is because it expands when it hits the target and slows down. Hollow point also makes a bigger hole and thus has more stopping power.

      Comment by kiwipolemicist — January 26, 2009 @ 5:19 pm

  3. Ian, the point of having bullets that work well is specifically so they work well. The aim of shooting someone is to actually injure them effectively. Unfortunately that means if you hit someone you didn’t intend to hit it will also work well on them of course, but again that is no reason to say the police should be less well armed.

    Comment by Mr Dennis — January 27, 2009 @ 8:04 am

  4. Condolences to Voni & family. Though we are unable to attend the funeral,please know that our hearts,thoughts & prayers are with you and the rest of the family back there.

    Sincerely Haloti & Tia Taumalolo

    Comment by Tia Taumalolo — January 27, 2009 @ 8:43 am

  5. none of yhuu ppl kno how it feels to lose someone in this kind of situation..
    idont know how yhuu can be so quick too judge..
    im angryy at the police and i think itss ******** that the cop isn’t getting charged
    for this ..imean it’ss straight up man slaughter !!
    iDont givv a **** that he was jussd doin hiss jobb !!he shuld beh chargedd!!
    this ‘COP’ has taken away a mujj luvved son, brother, partner&&father who was jussd beginning his lyyf .He was a great father, he was onlyy 15 when hiss daughter was born && not many ppl can sayy that theyy know a 15yr old father that is sdil there too support his family.He had a job, he had a child && he had his lyyf plannd owt for our future !!
    buh straight up i aint gonna lie I HATE THE POLICE !!
    They needa pay foa waht they have taken away from mee &&myy dawtah
    Coz this is ******** !
    **** THAA POLICE !!

    [profanity edited]

    Comment by Steph — June 23, 2009 @ 11:53 pm

  6. Why or how can Police justify killing another innocent man when the Officer clearly did not have a clear line of fire? Are NZ’s crazy and so naive as well as ignorant that they can’t see it for what it is, a blatant murder of an innoncent man.

    If it was your son or daughter who was killed (Halatau Naitoko) would you be so gracious and content that Police were just doing their job? Oh no, of course you would be upset, delirious, vengeful but on who? The criminal didn’t shoot Halatau Naitoko, the Police did.

    Wake up..Your son and daughter and loved ones are next in the fireing line and there will be others..

    Comment by james mitchell — July 21, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

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