22 Mar 2017

Kawerau siege: Accused was 'scared'

6:25 pm on 22 March 2017

A man accused of attempting to murder two police officers during a siege near Kawerau says he was forced to open fire on them because he thought his life was threatened.

Police Kawerau standoff

Police at the scene of the siege near Kawerau last year Photo: Diego Opatowski

Rhys Warren, 28, is on trial in the High Court in Hamilton on charges including two counts of attempted murder and one of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Four officers were shot and wounded after entering the house at the centre of the nearly 24-hour siege near Kawerau in March last year.

Mr Warren is representing himself. His trial is into its third week. He opened his case this morning

Mr Warren started by telling the jury he mistrusted and feared police because they repressed Māori for 176 years.

He said it still happened in Kawerau, Whakatāne and Te Teko.

"Our people get bashed by police, tasered, dogs put on them after handcuffs, pepper spray. Even little children get pepper sprayed for no reason other than to satisfy their egos and, what is worse, they get away with it."

He told the jury he was caught unaware when armed police entered his home on 9 March last year.

"I was tired, I was caught by surprise, scared, I was frightened and my life was threatened. I thought I was going to die."

Mr Warren said he grabbed his grandfather's rifle, then saw the barrel of a gun down the hallway.

He said as soon as he saw that he fired at it.

That was when the chaos started.

"There were bullets coming from every direction and I hit the ground."

He said he reloaded and fired again.

"I didn't see anyone and it wasn't my intention to see anyone get hurt."

Accused invited friend to 'join the fun'

In cross examination, Crown prosecutor Aaron Perkins QC asked Mr Warren about a police officer being shot in the hand outside the back door of the house.

Mr Perkins asked Mr Warren if he thought the officer made it up.

"For all I know, with all the cover-ups the police are doing, they could have made anything up," Mr Warren replied.

Mr Perkins showed text messages sent and received by Mr Warren during the siege and questioned his intentions.

One of texts, from Mr Warren to a friend, said "come join the fun, most welcome".

Mr Perkins asked Mr Warren if the message tallied with his evidence he was frightened and scared.

"Just a saying we have between our culture. We've got different lingos and we have to try and act brave in front of each other."

Mr Warren said he did not like the thought of going back to prison.

He eventually gave himself up after more than 22 hours.

"I honesty believe if it wasn't for my whānau I would have been killed."

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