The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a Whangarei-based officer was lawfully justified in fatally shooting Lee Jane Mettam on 23 October 2008.
Lee Mettam was shot in the chest by Officer A, a member of the Armed Offenders Squad (AOS), as she stood in the doorway of a Vodafone shop in Reyburn St, Whangarei.
At the time she was shot, Ms Mettam had her .177 calibre air rifle aimed at Officer A and was holding a staff member hostage inside the shop.
In a report released today, Authority Chair Justice Lowell Goddard said “Officer A was justified in shooting Ms Mettam in light of the immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm to himself and others, and he could not have reasonably protected himself or others in a less violent manner in the circumstances. The force he used in those circumstances was not excessive.”
Other options such as using a Police dog or Taser were either not available or practicable.
At 9.24am on the day of the incident Ms Mettam had entered the Vodafone shop seeking to obtain money from an employee she knew, ‘Mr X’. Ms Mettam had been demanding increasingly large amounts of money from Mr X and his family for several days, and the previous day had assaulted his daughter, and threatened to kill her if she went to the Police.
Mr X was not at the shop when Ms Mettam arrived. On discovering this, Ms Mettam pointed her rifle at staff and demanded money and phones. She then took one staff member hostage. For approximately half an hour Ms Mettam held the hostage at gunpoint, during which time she threatened to shoot him.
Police were immediately called to the scene and the AOS were paged. Officer A was one of the first AOS members to arrive. Through the shop window, Officer A saw Ms Mettam behaving erratically, at one stage pointing her rifle towards the hostage.
At 9.58am Ms Mettam appeared in the shop doorway, holding the rifle. Three members of the AOS made loud verbal appeals to her to put down the weapon. Ms Mettam raised the rifle and swung it towards Officer A, who was approximately 34 metres away. Officer A believed she was holding a high-powered rifle and was going to shoot him. He fired a single shot at her. The Auckland Chief Pathologist has advised the Authority that Ms Mettam could not have survived her injuries.
Both Police and civilian witnesses believed that Ms Mettam was going to shoot Officer A from the shop doorway.
The Authority has found that Officer A was lawfully justified in shooting Ms Mettam in light of the immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm to himself and others.
The Authority found there were some minor breaches of Police procedures around communications protocols, but they did not amount to misconduct or neglect of duty and did not affect the outcome.