A man wanted by police was being chased through a paddock when he opened fire on apolice dog – and was shot three times by officers.
The dramatic incident was the fourth time police had been shot at within months.
The man was initially seen acting at about 9.17am today at Tangowahine, between Dargaville and Whāngārei on the northern Kaipara Harbour.
An off-duty police officer also spotted the man around the same time and phoned colleagues, Superintendent Tony Hill told reporters at a press conference this afternoon.
He recognised the man as being wanted on firearms and cannabis charges, Hill said.
Two police cars then rushed to the scene, including that of a dog handler.
But when the cars arrived, the man leapt a fence and fled into a paddock.
“Police staff chased the man, who then turned around and presented a high calibre firearm and began shooting at the police dog, in the direction of the police officer,” Hill said.
“The officer returned fire and subsequently the offender was shot three times.”
Police gave the man first aid and called in medical teams, Hill said.
The man was then airlifted to Auckland City Hospital where he is now in a stable condition.
The police dog was also airlifted to Auckland in a separate helicopter for specialist veterinary treatment at Unitec in Mt Albert.
The dog was in a stable condition and police hoped it would make a full recovery, but said it was still too early to tell.
“Our police dogs are a highly valued part of our police whānau and regularly put their lives on the line to protect our community,” Hill said.
Hill said the police dog handler and his dog initially responded to the incident because they were near the scene.
Police believed the dog was shot at least once. Medical tests would confirm how many times it was shot.
Police couldn’t reveal the name of the police dog with Hill confirming the dog’s handler was shaken up.
Hill said the offender was known to police and wanted on firearms and drugs charges.
The officers who shot the man would now be supported by their fellow staff and would be involved in an investigation into the incident – as was normal after shootings.
“This was a frightening incident and police are providing all available support to the officer involved, as well as the other police officers present at the scene.”
Hill would not reveal the ranks or names of the police officers involved in the shooting
He also would not reveal details about the injuries or where the suspect was shot.
Police were also working with and providing support to the family of the man who was shot,” Hill said.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority had been notified.
Police had located the “high calibre” firearm at the scene.
Fourth firearms incident in past months
Across Northland this was the fourth incident in which police had been shot at in the last few months.
These included incidents in which a police dog handler’s van had been shot at and another incident after a traffic stop.
Hill described the latest shooting incident as “very dynamic and fluid”.
“Our Police officers come to work every day and risk their own safety to keep our community safe, and this is an outcome that nobody wants.”
“However, this incident highlights the unpredictable and dangerous nature of policing.
“Our staff must make quick decisions to ensure not only the safety of the wider community, but also their own safety.
“They deserve to go home at the end of the day to their families.”
Earlier: Shot suspect flown to Auckland hospital
Police earlier confirmed the man was shot after firing on a police dog during an incident in a tiny Northland settlement.
The man and police dog were both airlifted to Auckland for hospital treatment.
Tangowahine, between Dargaville and Whāngārei on the northern Kaipara Harbour, was shut down this morning as police raced to support colleagues who had confronted an armed individual.
Police said in a statement this morning they were called at 9.17am after a member of the public called to report a suspicious person on Tangowahine Valley Rd.
“Police staff have responded to that job in an area with very limited communication. We are still working to establish exactly what has occurred.
“However, we can confirm that a police dog has been shot, and a man who has shot the dog has been shot by police.
“Both are currently being airlifted separately to receive medical and veterinary assistance.
“We are in the very early stages of establishing what exactly has happened but an update will be provided as soon as one becomes available.”
The injured man was taken to Auckland City Hospital by a Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
The injured dog has been flown by the Northland Rescue Helicopter to Veterinary Specialist Group at Auckland’s Unitec campus in Mt Albert, Auckland according to Stuff.
Police responded in force, with about 20 police cars seen racing down State Highway 14 from Whangarei to Tangowahine.
Police told Tangowahine School about the shooting but there was no need to put the school in lockdown, principal Huw Wainwright said.
Wainwright said classes continued as normal although the school would use its mailing list to tell parents what was happening.
“We’re not in a situation where we upset or unduly react to something we’re not fully informed about”.
Wainwright said the school was waiting on further information from police.
Ian MacDonald, a beef and sheep farmer on Tangowahine Valley Rd, said an ambulance had gone past about 10.15am.
“It’s terrible, shocking. Of course it’s a worry. I have kids myself so you want to stay safe.”
MacDonald has lived in the area all his life and said people were farmers who quietly went about their business.
Local landowner Douglas Conn said the police dash to help their colleague was initially thwarted.
“There was a tree that was blown over so they had clear that for police to go through.”
He said locals were largely in the dark over what had happened, although had pinned down the location of the incident. Knowing where it had happened hadn’t shed any light on what might have happened, he said.
“Everyone is a bit overwhelmed and you’re always concerned and think whether there are others involved, did it happen on my property, the circumstances of what happened.”
A Dargaville-based company that runs converted golf carts on derailed Kiwi Rail tracks was forced to cancel today’s lone trip because of the shooting.
Port Dargaville Rail and River director John Hansen said a customer rang and told him about the incident on Tangowahine Valley Rd and he then decided to cancel the trip.
“A lack of information from police is not very helpful. Hopefully we can go back tomorrow,” he said.
The trip is 14.5km each way and the journey takes riders through dairy farms, under overhead bridges and along the Northern Wairoa River, and the cart stops on Tangowahine Valley Rd for refreshments before returning to Dargaville.
Hansen said the shooting was “just another thing” in a tough year for his business.
The diminutive railway vehicles have startled commuters along State Highway 14 since Port Dargaville Rail and River started running them on December 12, 2015, between Dargaville and Tangowahine.
The incident comes after a number of shooting incidents in the Far North and wider Northland region in the last two months.
In late October, a lone female police officer carrying out a routine stop was shot at near the Puketona Junction on State Highway 1.
The incident involved two men – who have yet to be found – who got out of their car and aimed guns at the officer – who was able to retreat.
However, that was not before a shot was fired at her vehicle; shattering the windscreen.
Hours before the officer was shot at, police were alerted to a situation hours earlier when a man who had been kidnapped near Waipapa raised the alarm.
That was also a firearms-related incident and resulted in the victim’s car – a grey 2010 Nissan Skyline – being torched on Puketōtara Rd near Ōkaihau.
Less than a week later, on the first week of November, two men were shot and injured while sitting in a car on the side of a road in Northland.
Police quickly ruled out any connection with the earlier shooting involving the police officer and said it was not a random attack.
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