08 March 2012
An investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of 19 year old Sina Naraghizadeh while fleeing Police in West Auckland has concluded that Police complied with legislation and with policy.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has completed its investigation into the pursuit of Mr Naraghizadeh, who died of multiple injuries at the scene of the crash in Hobsonville Rd, Massey, early on 18 September 2011. He had lost control of a stolen Subaru stationwagon and struck a tree, a lamppost, and a signpost before the vehicle flipped onto its roof. Four passengers in the vehicle received minor to serious injuries. Two additional passengers had been in the car at the beginning of the pursuit but had insisted on getting out when it slowed down at the entrance to a shopping mall carpark.
The pursuit had commenced after officers in an unmarked Police car noticed the Subaru drive through a red light on Fred Taylor Drive, and suspected that it was also overloaded with passengers. They activated their red and blue warning lights and siren and the Subaru pulled over. However it sped off again when an officer approached the vehicle on foot. The officers were then justified in commencing the pursuit as Mr Naraghizadeh had failed to stop.
After approximately one kilometre, the Subaru stopped briefly at the entrance to the Westgate shopping centre and two male passengers let themselves out of the rear hatch. The officers in the unmarked car twice lost sight of the Subaru during the subsequent pursuit. When they lost sight of it for the second time, the controller at the Northern Communications Centre directed the pursuit should be abandoned. However the Subaru crashed before the NorthComms dispatcher had time to broadcast the controller’s instruction. Officers in a second, marked, Police car found the vehicle on its roof shortly afterwards. The unmarked Police car arrived at the scene moments later. The pursuit had lasted just over four and a half minutes, and had covered a distance of approximately four kilometres.
The passengers said Mr Naraghizadeh was urged to flee the Police checkpoint by a male backseat passenger, who at the time was subject to a 24-hour Police curfew. Several passengers stated they were not aware the Subaru had been stolen. Toxicology results showed Mr Naraghizadeh had low traces of alcohol in his blood, and of methamphetamine and THC (cannabis).
The Police crash investigation report was unable to precisely determine the speed of the Subaru or the moment it lost control, because the road surface was wet from rain. However passengers in the vehicle who survived the crash reported it had been travelling between 150 kph and 200 kph at some stages. The pursuing Police had reported their own speed at 90 kph. It was a 50 kph speed zone. Other witnesses who had been working at a nearby McDonalds and a service station reported the Subaru had driven over a traffic island in the middle of the road without slowing down. They also reported that Police appeared to be travelling some distance behind the Subaru and at a slower speed.
As a result of its investigation the Authority is satisfied that Police conducted the pursuit in accordance with law and policy, and that they prioritised public safety during the pursuit. Although the pursuing officers and the dispatcher at NorthComms both reported difficulties with radio communications, there was no breach of policy that contributed to the fatality.
The Authority makes no recommendations.
NOTE: The Independent Police Conduct Authority has not produced a full public report into this pursuit, in light of its conclusion that Police complied with policy and in the interests of timely reporting of its findings. The Police conduct in this case did not raise any issues that require a full report in the public interest. This statement serves as a summarised report of the facts of the crash and of the Authority’s findings. Full background into Police fleeing driver policy, and the legislative authority for pursuits, can be found in recent IPCA pursuit reports on this website.