An unarmed police officer has been shot dead while carrying out a routine traffic stop in the New Zealand city of Auckland – the first to be killed in the line of duty in the country since 2009.
The officer was one of two shot at after attempting to stop a car in the suburb of Massey on Friday morning, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said at a press conference.
Police spotted the vehicle of interest on Friday, and attempted to pull it over, Coster said. But the car drove off, and police lost sight of the car, only to later find it crashed on the road.
A man got out of the car armed with a long-barreled gun and fired at police, leaving one officer dead and the other in a serious condition. The offender then got into a second car and fled with another person, Coster said.
A member of the public is being treated for minor injuries after being hit by the first car as it fled from police.
Following the incident, a manhunt was launched and schools in the immediate area were locked down. Coster said a firearm of interest has now been located and police are speaking with two people of interest. A general police arming order remains in place across Auckland.
New Zealand police generally don’t carry guns. The country has a relatively low rate of gun-related crime, and incidents where police officers are killed in the line of duty are not common.
Since 1890, just 32 police officers have died from a criminal act while carrying out their duties, according to the New Zealand police website. The last to be killed was Senior Constable Len Snee, who was fatally wounded while carrying out a routine search warrant at a property in Napier in 2009.
“This is devastating news and absolutely the worst thing for us to deal with,” Coster said. “This is a terrible day for us.
“What is clear is that this incident unfolded very quickly. The incident points to the real risk our officers face as they go about their jobs every day.”
The issue of whether New Zealand police officers should be armed has been the subject of intense debate in recent weeks.
Following last year’s Christchurch mosque shooting, in which 51 people were killed, police launched a controversial armed response team trial in three districts.
Coster announced last week that the trial would not continue, saying the armed teams “do not align with the style of policing that New Zealanders expect.”
“We police with the consent of the public, and that is a privilege,” he said in a statement at the time.