26 Aug 2016

Hunt for armed man moves south to Auckland area

6:40 pm on 26 August 2016

Police in Northland are now extending their search for a man thought to be armed to the greater Auckland area.

Police have evacuated residents of a Porirua street, north of Wellington, as they hunt for an armed offender who shot dead a police dog.

Photo: RNZ/Adriana Weber

The manhunt began in central Whangarei in the early hours of this morning after the man shot at two unarmed officers with a large-calibre gun, stole a police car, and fled south.

Armed police searched cars at checkpoints in Northland before the hunt moved on to the town of Kaiwaka and the surrounding area.

The man was last seen at Kaiwaka and the Armed Offenders Squad was concentrating its search in that area, police said.

However, Inspector Al Symonds said the man's location was unknown and members of the public should contact police immediately if they noticed anyone who fitted his description.

Detective Inspector Kevin Burke said police are continuing to speak to witnesses, and the man has connections as far south as Wellington.

He said they are following leads on the identity of the man, who is described as being in his late 30s, 1.8m tall, with brown curly hair.

He was wearing a blue t-shirt with white writing and a brown zip up hoodie.

All cordons that were in place along State Highway 1 and State Highway 12 had been lifted, he said.

"There will be still be a higher presence of police around Maungaturoto and the surrounding area as we continue to conduct inquires, however there is no need for cordons to remain in place."

People in Maungaturoto could go about their daily business, he said.

Earlier, Mr Symonds told Morning Report the man had fired at police with a large calibre weapon but there was no evidence to suggest he was a danger to the general public.

The incident began at 12.43am when officers tried to stop a car in Bank Street, Whangarei.

After a short police chase the driver crashed in Kamo, got out of the vehicle and shot at two unarmed police officers before fleeing in an unmarked patrol vehicle, police said. The two police officers were not injured.

A short time later the man stopped two people in a car near Raumanga Valley Road, Whangarei, ordered them to get out, and took their car.

He headed south on State Highway 1 and was next seen travelling along State Highway 12, where police signalled him to stop, but he fled again. The car was later found abandoned on Bikerstaffe Rd in Maungaturoto.

Police from Auckland and Waitemata were helping in the operation, Mr Symonds said.

School closed

Otamatea High School in Maungaturoto has closed for the day as a precaution.

Principal Rachel Clothier-Simmonds said the school had made the decision because of advice to avoid the Maungaturoto area.

"In this case the safest option seemed to be to keep students at home. We are using various methods to ensure that all families are aware of our closure today."

Kaiwaka School has remained open.

Marty Jeffery said he was heading to work at Kauri Park Nurseries, between Maungaturoto and Kaiwaka, about 6.40am this morning when he was stopped at a police checkpoint.

About six police cars were lined up at the intersection of SH12 and SH1, he said.

"I did get stopped by a cop with a gun bigger than Arnold Schwarzenegger's," he said. " They gave my car a good check but didn't find anything in there."

Cordons have been lifted along SH12 at Whakapirau, Hoanga, Mangapai Road and Ford Road, police say.

Maungaturoto resident Kelly Roberts said she had seen three police cars go past at speed shortly before 7am followed by others, more slowly, 10 minutes later.

She said it cars were apparently being turned back along SH12 between the intersection with SH1 and Bickerstaffe Road.

Another local, who asked not to be named, said helicopters had been buzzing over the town since 3am. She said cars appeared to be allowed along SH12 in groups with police checking them as the went.

It would normally take about an hour to drive between Whangarei and Kaiwaka through Maungaturoto.

Map showing route from Whangarei to Kaiwaka Photo: Google Maps