Waikato Police will consider the most appropriate way to recognise the actions of one of their dog handler's overnight, who despite being confronted by a gunman, managed to rescue his Police dog as his vehicle was stolen.
District Commander, Superintendent Win van der Velde, said the incident began shortly before midnight when the dog handler, travelling on Gordonton Rd, noticed a vehicle of interest.
"The driver of that car, a white Toyota Soarer, had fled Police about 5pm when other officers attempted to stop it and the pursuit was abandoned.
"The dog handler caught up to the Toyota and confirmed it was the vehicle being sought and initiated a pursuit, activating his lights and sirens but the driver failed to stop."
Mr van der Velde said the fleeing driver reached speeds of between 100-140km/h on rural roads before losing control on a bend near the intersection of Waverley and Holland Roads.
"As the officer approached the stationary car with his dog the driver got out of the passenger side brandishing a handgun and threatened to kill the handler."
The dog handler has backed away from the threatening gunman and as the offender has reached the Police dog van he started the ignition.
"It appears the dog has automatically jumped into the back of the van. While the driver was turning the vehicle around the handler has run to the rear of the vehicle and safely extracted his partner to safety."
Mr van der Velde said the driver of the stolen Police dog van has fled east while cordons were established under the management of the Northern Communications Centre.
"Notifications by Northcomms to large fleet operators resulted in a number of truck drivers alerting Police to the direction the offender was fleeing and the Police vehicle was located early this morning at a rural property in Tahuna undamaged.
"The actions of the dog handler are highly commendable and speak volumes of the close bonds forged between handlers and their dogs. The officer and his dog are both fine and recovering at home."
Mr van der Velde said the support of the public, particularly those drivers who updated Police on the movements of the stolen vehicle, were also commendable and of great assistance to Police.
"At this point the offender, who has yet to be identified, remains at large and we urge anyone with knowledge of his whereabouts or identity to contact Police by ringing 111. This person is considered armed and should not be approached.
"At the same time we would ask the offender involved and his associates to take a moment to reflect on the serious nature of situation and consider handing himself in. Alternatively, anyone with information who can't speak directly to Police can leave information anonymously with Crimestoppers on 0800 555111."