All frontline police in Christchurch are carrying firearms in the aftermath of Tuesday night’s suburban shootout.
The district’s police chief, Superintendent John Price, has taken the step to ensure the safety of police and the public, he told The Star yesterday.
It comes as police seek a man connected with a 33-year-old gunman who fired on police in Richmond about 7.30pm on Tuesday. Armed police returned fire and he was seriously wounded. He remains in a serious condition in Christchurch Hospital.
The 33-year-old was being sought in relation to an incident in Wainoni in the early hours of Saturday morning when shots were fired from a moving car at two police vehicles.
Superintendent Price said a second man in the vehicle was being sought by police. Because of the potential danger he posed, all frontline officers would carry firearms. Normally firearms are stored in the boot of police vehicles.
He said the general arming order was reviewed before each police shift went on duty.
“We only have one person in custody . . . the unknown risk and the fact there has been three incidents where we have had shooting at officers, I decided to make the call to general arm all staff,” Superintendent Price said.
“Obviously we don’t want to create too much fear for the community. We will locate this person pretty quickly . . . we have some positive lines of inquiry.”
Police were fired on in Richmond’s EveleynCouzins Ave after they had pursued the 33-year-old’s vehicle from Breezes Rd, Aranui.
The fleeing vehicle was driven at a police officer laying road spikes, and then it came to a halt. The gunman then got out of his vehicle and began firing at police.
Several onlookers witnessed police and the offender trading shots and said the gunman “confidently” opened fire at the officers.
Witness Cathy Allden was attending a community meeting nearby when the building she was in went into lockdown.
“The first thing we heard was all the sirens getting closer and closer,” she told the New Zealand Herald.
“Then we saw [a car] come up onto the pavement and all the police cars behind . . . the next minute, the driver gets out of his car, comes around the front near the passenger side – with an automatic gun in his hand, and he just started to open fire,” she said.
Vaughan McLean was in the lounge with his daughter when he heard the sirens.
“I looked out the window and saw them chasing the car.”
He said the vehicle appeared to have lost a wheel so he and his daughter went outside to look.
“We were standing here and the guy started shooting. I’m not sure if it was bullets hitting the road or shrapnel flying clean past us so we ran in and lay on the lawn behind the hedge.
“I’m lying on my daughter. There was a total of about 10 shots.”