24 Mar 2017

Kawerau siege: 'It was a day from hell'

8:59 pm on 24 March 2017

A jury has found a man accused of shooting and wounding four police officers guilty on all charges.

Police Kawerau standoff

Photo: Diego Opatowski

Rhys Warren, 28, was on trial in the High Court in Hamilton on two charges of attempted murder, one of using a firearm against police and one of wounding with intention to cause grievous bodily harm.

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

Warren admitted firing three shots but claimed it was in self defence.

The attempted murder charges and the charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm were majority verdicts, with 10 jurors in support and one against. They were unanimous on the charge of using a firearm against a police officer.

After being convicted and given a three strikes warning by Justice Brewer, Warren became aggressive and was bundled out of court by at least seven Corrections Officers.

There was a big police presence in court for the verdicts.

Warren represented himself throughout the three week trial, but was allowed a friend, Jesse Church, to be with him and to assist.

Afterwards, police said, while an internal review was under way, the staff involved were in a dangerous and unpredictable situation.

Kawerau siege - Detective Inspector Mike Foster

Detective Inspector Mike Foster Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

The officer in charge of the case, Detective Inspector Mike Foster, said outside court the officers involved were naturally happy with the trial result.

"It's really a miracle we didn't have two police officers killed on that day."

"It's obviously something they will never forget, it was a day from hell for them."

All four officers were back at work.

Mr Church said the case against his friend was wrong from the beginning.

He said police invaded Warren's home with machine guns and, when he tried to defend himself, he was charged.

Kawerau siege - Jesse Church

Jesse Church. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Officers describe being shot

During the trial, the jury heard from the police officers involved in the siege, including those who were shot.

Constable Martyn Roe was one of a team of six officers who went into the house.

He said he heard a loud bang and saw Constable Regan Mauheni fall backwards and bounce on the wooden floor.

Mr Roe said he was able to drag Mr Mauheni to safety as other officers provided covering fire.

Mr Mauheni received wounds to his head, face, neck and chest, and said he was in considerable pain as other officers removed his protective gear once he had been rescued from the house.

Mr Mauheni said he suffered from a head wound that split his skull and required surgery and months of rehabilitation

Shooter feared police

Mr Warren, who represented himself, said in his closing address yesterday he was stressed and traumatised when armed police entered his house and he felt that he was fighting for his life.

He said he mistrusted and feared police because they repressed Māori for 176 years, and that the situation was tragic, but that police created the chaos.

He accused the police of planting evidence and said that Crown witnesses colluded.

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