22 Sep 2009

Man at centre of motorway shooting jailed 13 years

10:10 pm on 22 September 2009

A man who led police on an hour-long pursuit during a drug-fuelled rampage has been jailed for 13 years for his actions that led to the shooting of an innocent teenager.

Crown prosecutor Aaron Perkins told the Auckland High Court on Tuesday that McDonald had 180 previous convictions dating back to 1973 and had been sentenced in courts on 56 separate occasions.

The 50-year-old was still subject to release conditions at the time of the chase on 23 January this year.

Fuelled by methamphetamine and cannabis, McDonald went from house to house after being spotted by police in a stolen car, before being stopped on Auckland's northwestern motorway.

It was there that a member of the Armed Offenders Squad accidentally shot 17-year-old Halatau Naitoko, killing him almost instantly.

In July, McDonald pleaded guilty to 23 charges, including carrying a firearm with intent, aggravated burglary, unlawful possession of a firearm and using a firearm against police.

Justice Harrison reached a 20-year starting point for McDonald's prison term but reduced it due to an early guilty plea and what the judge believed was genuine remorse. He ordered that McDonald serve a minimum term of eight years.

But McDonald swore at the judge while he was reading the summary of facts on Tuesday, questioning its version of events.

Justice Harrison said Halatau Naitoko was an exemplary young man who did not deserve the fate caused by McDonald's offending and other victims had also suffered substantial harm.

"Your sustained offending over that one hour, Mr McDonald, had a profound effect on many lives. Relationships were affected, many felt guilt and distress."

The court was told there were no fewer than 24 victims during McDonalds' rampage.

Mr Naitoko's family said in a statement that, while many have focused on the role of the police, the family now recognises that Halatau Naitoko would be alive today if McDonald had made different decisions.

In a victim impact statement, the officer who shot Mr Naitoko said the bullet killed an innocent young man and he has had many sleepless nights since the incident.

McDonald's lawyer Roger Chambers questioned the police pursuit in his address to Justice Harrison, saying his client believes there was no need for a pursuit of such magnitude.

Officer forgiven, says family

A spokesperson for the Naitoko family says they have forgiven the officer who fired the fatal shot and would like to meet him one day.

Peter Sykes told Checkpoint the family now accepts that police acted as best they could, and there was no doubt that McDonald was solely responsible for the young father's death.

Police say the officer, who has permanent name suppression, is considering leaving the force.

A coroners inquest is due to begin in November. A report from the Independent Police Conduct Authority is still being completed.