New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the death of an officer at a routine traffic stop, the first fatal attack on a police officer on duty in the country for 11 years, was "devastating news".
"To lose a police officer is to lose someone working for all of us, but also a family member, someone's loved one and friend," Ms Ardern said in a statement.
“My condolences go to them and to their police whanau [family].”
The officer was killed by gunshot after performing a routine traffic stop on Friday morning in Massey, a suburb of New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland.
Police say a second officer was shot and seriously injured, while the offender also struck a member of the public in his vehicle, injuring them.
The second officer and the member of the public, who police said suffered minor injuries, are both being treated in a nearby hospital.
They are now in stable condition.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the officers, who were not armed at the time - because NZ police don’t carry guns - had attempted to stop a “car of interest” when they suddenly lost sight of the vehicle.
It was located short time later crashed and a man got out armed with long barrelled firearm, the commissioner said in a press conference on Friday afternoon.
The man fired several shots before getting into another car and fleeing with a second person, he said.
The second car was found abandoned and a manhunt was launched, prompting police to put cordons in place and lock down schools. Road closures remain in place at the scene and drivers are urged to avoid the area.
Police across Auckland will remain armed as investigations continue, the commissioner said.
Commissioner Coster confirmed on Friday afternoon that two people of interest have been arrested and are being interviewed by police.
He also said officers have found a weapon of interest and “following strong lines of inquiry” about the incident. No charges have been laid at this stage.
The NZ Herald has reported that police stormed a house in West Auckland shortly before 2.30pm (local time) and arrested the men.
It has also been reported that a car has been spiked during a search for the gunman.
Local news website Stuff.co.nz reports neighbour Rick Thorburn heard multiple gun shots and saw two people running from the road and jumping a fence.
Thorburn believed he heard someone open fire and another person “return fire”.
Another neighbour Caleb Mellor, told Stuff he heard several rapid gun shots followed by the sound of people yelling.
Shortly after the shooting he heard a commanding voice yell “get the f... down” repeatedly.
‘A shocking situation’
Commissioner Coster had confirmed the death with "a heavy heart" earlier on Friday afternoon in a previous press conference.
"This is a shocking situation, it is the worst news police and police families can receive," he said.
“Our priority is to support our officers and to locate this alleged offender as soon as possible.
“This incident points to the real risks our officers face on the streets, doing their jobs, every day.
“Staff safety and welfare are our absolute priority and our whole organisation is in a state of shock after these horrific events.”
Elaine Taniela, a local, told the NZ Herald she heard gunshots from her home, and a friend "saw a cop on the ground. He looked like he was having a seizure."
Police minister ‘heartbroken for family’
Police Minister Stuart Nash said in a statement that the government is “heartbroken for the family and colleagues of the officer who has died today”.
“We want all our police officers to get home safely at the end of every working day. This is a tragic day for our police family.
“We have another officer injured by gun fire and a member of the public has also been injured by a fleeing offender. Our thoughts are with them.
It is with a heavy heart that we confirm that one of our colleagues injured in the incident in Massey today has died.— New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) June 19, 2020
This is devastating news and absolutely the worst thing for us to deal with.
We have lost a colleague and friend in our Police whānau. pic.twitter.com/3VzXM7fDA6
“The officers’ families and colleagues also need all the support they can get. This will take a toll on them in the days and weeks ahead.
“Massey has a strong community spirit and this will be frightening for the locals caught up in this,” said Mr Nash.
Twenty-two police officers have been shot and killed on duty in New Zealand since 1890.
The most recent to die was Senior Constable Len Snee in Napier in 2009. Since 2002, 15 officers have been wounded by firearms.
The death of the officer comes after a nationwide debate as to whether New Zealand should arm its police officers.
An unpopular trial of armed officers in three regions with high gun violence and offences recently concluded, generating enormous community backlash.
Mr Coster announced earlier this month he would not be seeking the arming of officers.
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