Dolphy Kohu, who was in prison after sparking a huge manhunt in the central North Island last year, has died, family members say.
Relatives expressed their grief on Facebook writing "Much love brutha dolph" and "I'm really going to miss you I'll never forget you".
Whanganui Prison director Reti Pearse confirmed in a statement that a prisoner died last Friday afternoon at the jail.
"Staff found the prisoner in an unresponsive state and provided medical attention however he was pronounced dead at the scene."
The death has been referred to the coroner and is subject to an investigation by the Corrections Inspectorate and police.
Mr Kohu came to national attention in August last year when he was in a vehicle police began chasing near Whanganui. During the pursuit, a police car was rammed, shots were fired and a police car briefly taken.
Schools in the Ohakune, Waiouru and Raetihi region were closed while armed police carried out a search.
He was charged with attempted murder, using a firearm against a police officer, stealing a police car and unlawful possession of a pistol.