Killing an innocent New Zealander is probably one of a police officer's greatest fears. Yet it happened, during a tense standoff involving the armed offenders squad and allegedly 50-year-old Stephen Hohepa McDonald, who was high on P and had no recollection of the incident, his lawyer says.
Once McDonald was in custody, a young courier driver, in the wrong place at the wrong time, was found to be dead after a misdirected shot from a police rifle and another motorist peppered with shrapnel but alive. Whoever pulled the trigger, ending the life of the teenage father, must live for the rest of their lives with the knowledge of what he or she has done.
This is indeed a nightmare scenario for a police officer, sworn to protect the New Zealand public, not to harm them. In Keeping Stock's opinion, calls for the officer to face prosecution are premature, and should be held back until such time as the various investigations have been concluded. And as the leader writer at the Dom-Post notes:
This is a very balanced piece this morning, well worthy of a read. Keeping Stock concurs with the leader writer's opinion.
Emotions are understandably high at the moment. Three inquiries into last week's events are now in train a criminal inquiry, being led by a policeman from out of the area, an Independent Police Conduct Authority inquiry and a coroner's inquest. Though each can take a long time the IPCA report into the police shooting of Steven Wallace in April 2000 is still outstanding it is important they be allowed to take their course.
If the officer who missed his or her mark and killed Halatau instead is found to have acted wrongly, he or she should face the courts.