New Zealand shocked as policeman shot dead in rare attack

WELLINGTON (AFP) – An unarmed New Zealand policeman was shot and killed on an Auckland street yesterday, becoming the first officer to die on duty for more than a decade in the normally peaceful South Pacific nation.

Police said the officer and a colleague were approaching a crashed car when a gunman produced a rifle and opened fire.

One officer died, another received serious leg injuries and a bystander was struck and badly hurt as the two men drove off in a second car, New Zealand’s police commissioner Andrew Coster said.

He said two persons of interest were being questioned after being apprehended several hours later following a massive manhunt which also resulted in police seizing a firearm.

“This is a shocking situation. It is the worst news that police and police officers’ families can ever receive in the course of what we do,” Coster said.

A police officer cordons off an area after a shooting incident in a residential neighbourhood in Auckland. PHOTO: AFP

“Our officers walk towards danger every day, our job is to keep them safe.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered condolences to the officer’s family and police colleagues.

“This is devastating news. Our police officers work hard every day to keep us and our communities safe,” she said.

The slain policeman is the 23rd to be shot dead on duty since 1890, according to the police website, with the previous fatal shooting in 2009.

Coster declined to speculate on a possible motive for the shooting.

“This was the type of work that our officers undertake every day to keep the public safe,” Coster told reporters, adding “the situation unfolded very quickly”.

“At this stage, there is nothing to indicate that this job was going to be anything out of the ordinary.”

No charges had been laid as yet and Coster said the priority “is to hold this offender to account”.