An armed offender on a rampage, Wainuiomata, 6 January 2007
Senior Sergeant Eric Tibbott
The New Zealand Bravery Star
Constable Allister Rose
The New Zealand Bravery Star
Senior Sergeant Eric Tibbott and Constable Allister Rose
Late in the afternoon of Saturday 6 January, police received information that a person had been shot somewhere along a fire trail near Summit Road in the hills between Wainuiomata and Lower Hutt. Four mountain bikers had happened upon an armed offender after he had murdered an innocent man, Karl Kuchenbecker. The gunman was trying to abscond on his victim’s quad bike. As Jeremy Simpson and Karl Holmes passed the gunman on the track, they saw Karl lying motionless on the ground and the shotgun the offender was wielding. They rode for their lives while the gunman opened fire on them, hitting Jeremy Simpson in the elbow and Karl Holmes in the left arm and side. They ran and took cover, attempting to alert first responders to the danger they were in. As they were fleeing two more mountain bikers Nicholas Rea and his daughter Kate also happened upon the scene. The offender punched Nicholas in the face and forced him to try and start the quad bike. Subsequently the gunman fired off another round and the shotgun pellets ricocheted and hit Kate in the neck and arm. The Rea’s too ran for their lives and contacted police as soon as they were able.
At 17:30, Senior Sergeant Tibbott and Constable Rose responded to the call and proceeded to the bush area where Summit Road joins the fire trail.
During the drive to Summit Road, the officers received further reports that a bald man had been seen carrying a firearm around the Wainuiomata hills, a further indication that they were dealing with a wanted criminal with a prior conviction for murdering innocent bi-stander Paul Anderson at a nightclub in 1992. The offender had breached his parole conditions and warrants were out for his arrest.
When they arrived at the top of Summit Road, there was nobody to meet them. Shortly afterwards, the officers were told by radio that the witnesses they expected to meet were still hiding somewhere further along the trail and were unwilling to walk to meet the officers at that time. As their car could not negotiate the fire trail, the two officers decided to walk up the trail to find the witnesses.
In case they met the offender, the officers decided to arm themselves with ‘Bushmaster’ rifles they carried in their vehicle, because these had a greater range than the ‘Glock’ pistols that they carried on their person. Constable Rose opened the vehicle boot and unlocked the gun safe.
As the officers were preparing their equipment, the gunman came down the trail on Nick Rea’s bicycle armed with a shotgun. Seeing the police car, he took cover behind a concrete pillar that supported a nearby gate.
At this time, only Constable Rose had an unobstructed view of the gunman, seeing the offender, drew his pistol from his holster, pointed it and called out “Stop, armed police”. In response, the gunman raised his weapon and aimed it at Constable Rose.
Although he could only partially see the action, Senior Sergeant Tibbott was aware that they were dealing with a violent and drug fuelled criminal. He also realised that the police car would provide them with little protection from the firearm in the gunman’s possession, the threat to their lives was considerable. Senior Sergeant Tibbott decided that their only option was to withdraw to a safer position, so he grabbed Constable Rose by the shoulder and indicated they should run. Leaving the police car, they ran back down the hill to a position where they were out of the gunman’s line of vision. When it became clear the offender was not following them, Senior Sergeant Tibbott reported their situation to Police Control.
At this point in time, both officers knew they had left the boot of the police car open, and the rifles were unsecured. The offender would have full access to the weapons and even though they were not loaded, it was probable that he might have his own ammunition or would be able to obtain some. With these weapons he would pose a serious threat to the lives of the witnesses still hiding in the scrub, as well as to the nearby residents of Wainuiomata and Lower Hutt. Senior Sergeant Tibbott and Constable Rose also knew from Police Controllers that the Armed Offenders Squad was unavailable, and they would have to deal with the situation themselves. They therefore decided to return to their car and confront the gunman.
Armed only with their pistols, the two police officers made their way back towards their car, taking care not to be seen. As they approached it, they saw the gunman rummaging through the boot and that he had two police rifles. Senior Sergeant Tibbott decided to break from cover in order to give himself a clear view of the car and the offender. As he did so, he shouted “Armed Police! Put those guns down”. The gunman turned around and raised his own weapon at Senior Sergeant Tibbott. Realising that his life was now in grave danger, Senior Sergeant Tibbott fired. The shot missed. The offender stood his ground and continued to point his weapon at Senior Sergeant Tibbott, who fired two more rounds in quick succession, hitting the gunman in the leg and bringing him to the ground.
…as police officers we were duty bound to act in the defence and protection of the public. It is part of the oath we took, it is what we do and it is our job. I decided that I was going to use concealment to make my way back to the patrol vehicle because I wanted to protect the public against an armed and dangerous individual who had already shot somebody and had threatened to shoot me and my partner.
My intention to go forward was to challenge … to prevent him from continuing his actions, to cause him to surrender and to detain and arrest him.
Snr Sgt Tibbott
IPCA report into the shooting, February 2008
At this time Constable Rose, who could not see the gunman when the shots were fired, approached him, unsure if Senior Sergeant Tibbott’s shots had hit the target. One of the shots that hit the gunman had severed an artery and there was a great deal of blood gushing from the wound. The gunman was disarmed and Constable Rose, a trained paramedic, performed first-aid. It was later confirmed that the treatment applied by Constable Rose saved his life.
At the time of his arrest the offender was in possession of two police rifles, a shotgun, a ‘commando’ style dagger, and a multi-tool pocketknife.
Senior Sergeant Tibbott and Constable Rose displayed exceptional bravery when, at considerable risk to their own lives, they decided to confront the offender, an armed man already convicted of murder and who was believed to have killed a member of the public earlier in the day. Their actions prevented any further harm coming to the witnesses who were in hiding nearby and to the residents of Wainuiomata and Lower Hutt. Constable Rose’s skill as a paramedic also saved the life of the offender.
Our thoughts are with the family of Karl Kuchenbecker, for their tragic loss and for the ongoing distress suffered by Jeremy Simpson, Karl Holmes, Nicholas and Kate Rea.