One police officer was killed and another sustained serious injuries after a shooting during a routine traffic stop in Auckland, New Zealand, with a hunt for the suspect continuing.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the death of the officer was “absolutely devastating … This is a shocking situation, this is the worst news police and their families can receive,” he told a press conference on Friday.
The officer is the first to be killed in the line of duty in New Zealand since 2009.
The hunt for the offender was continuing and local police would be armed while the operation continued, Coster said. There had been two people in the car and the gun was described as a “long-barrelled firearm”.
The second officer was shot in the leg and was taken to hospital with serious injuries. A member of the public had minor injuries.
“The incident points to the real risk that our officers face as they go about their job every day,” Coster said. “Our officers walk towards danger every day. Our job is to making sure we keep them safe.”
He did not identify the officers or say whether they knew who the offender was.
Cordons were put in place and eight schools in the immediate area were advised to lock down.
The shots rang out during what the police described as a routine traffic stop in the West Auckland suburb of Massey. After shooting two officers, the suspect fled, injuring a member of the public with the vehicle, a police statement said.
A local business owner on Reynella Drive in Massey told the Guardian they had seen the shots fired and the fleeing car. The witness was interviewed by police.
Two ambulances were called to the scene. Witnesses told the New Zealand Herald that a police officer was seen lying in the street.
Massey High School wrote on its website: “We are unaware how long this will last. Please do not try to contact students at school. Everyone is safe in class.”
Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, said the officer’s death 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,” she said. “We are heartbroken for the family and colleagues of the officer who has died today,” said Stuart Nash, the police minister.
The officer was the first to be killed in the line of duty in New Zealand since 2009 when Constable Len Snee was murdered and two other officers shot and wounded at the end of a 51-hour siege at a house in Napier. The gunman, Jan Molenaar, was later found dead inside.
Thirty-two officers in New Zealand had previously been killed by criminal activity on the job since 1890, according to the New Zealand police website. There had been four other officer deaths this century.
Gun violence in New Zealand is rare but a terrorist attack in March 2019 in which a gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch ushered in two rounds of gun law reform – the second of which was passed by parliament on Thursday night. The bill paves the way for a gun register and a warning system to show if a licence holder is a fit and proper person.
Auckland, home to about 1.7 million people, is New Zealand’s largest city.