23 Aug 2011

Naitoko coroner questions why AOS missed target

7:11 pm on 23 August 2011

A coroner who reviewed the fatal police shooting of Auckland teenager in January 2009 has questioned why the armed offenders squad missed their target.

Gordon Matenga on Tuesday released his report into the death of courier driver Halatau Naitoko who was mistakenly shot in the chest by police on Auckland's north-western motorway.

The 17-year-old got caught in the crossfire as police were pursuing fleeing gunman Stephen McDonald who was on a drug-fuelled rampage.

The coroner found that police actions were justified and the death was accidental, but says the consequences were tragic and has recommended that police make some changes.

Mr Matenga said he is concerned that two officers missed the gunman four times from reasonably close range and were the least experienced members ot the squad that day.

He recommended that less experienced squad members be paired with senior members during a callout.

Other recommendations included that police review part of its fleeing driver policy to consider using aerial video surveillance to provide more information during pursuits, and that police improve the armed offenders training so it more closely resembles real life situations.

The Assistant Police Commissioner says the way police pursuits are staffed has changed Mr Naitoko's death.

Allan Boreham says police have taken Mr Matenga's recommendations on board and are already pairing up more experienced and less experienced officers.

However, Mr Boreham told Checkpoint fewer people than normally would be requested turned up on the day of the shooting, and officers there had to act quickly as the gunman was a threat to public safety.

A spokesperson for the Naitoko family said the report focuses mostly on what happened in the coroner's court hearing and they already know most of that.

However, Peter Sykes said it is good to hear from police that the way the armed offenders squad operates has been changed.