Police were justified in shooting a Tauranga man who held his two daughters hostage for 15 hours, the Independent Police Conduct Authority says.
On November 24, 2019, police were called to the Bellevue house by the man’s partner, who had managed to escape.
There police found Ethan Kerapa, also known Orynn, barricaded in the wardrobe of an upstairs bedroom and holding a knife to one of his children.
He swiped the knife at the police, and they were unable to negotiate with him and made the decision to withdraw.
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The Armed Offenders Squad, Special Tactics Group and police negotiators all attended and negotiators were unable to persuade him to come out, or allow his daughters, aged six and four, out.
It was an extremely hot day in Tauranga, and by early afternoon police received medical advice about the potentially deadly effects of the heat on the children, who were in an upstairs room with no ventilation.
As far as police knew, the children had not had any food or water since the incident began, even though they had left bottles of water outside the bedroom door.
Kerapa twice requested police pass food and drink up to the bedroom using a rope out the window but these requests were refused.
Concern about the health of the children in the heat, combined with the Kerapa’s history of violence and mental health issues, led the team to order a forced entry into the bedroom via the upstairs window.
When the officers entered the bedroom, they saw the Kerapa with his arm wrapped tightly around one of the children, holding a large knife against her chest.
One officer tried to taser him, but it had no effect.
Another officer, fearing Kerapa was about to kill the child, fired a single round from his pistol, killing him.
The IPCA found the command and control of the incident was in general well executed, although designating a family liaison officer would have benefited both police and the man’s family.
“There were many commendable aspects of this operation and it is clear to us that all officers at the scene were focussed on the welfare of the children throughout the incident.
“However, it was the responsibility of the Incident Controller to look beyond negotiating tactics to a contingency plan to protect the wellbeing of the children until they were released or rescued.
“This included fully exploring all options to provide the reasonable necessities of life such as food and water.
“We accept that the immediate and serious threat that [the man] posed to his daughter when officers entered the bedroom justified the decision to shoot him,” Authority Chair Judge Colin Doherty said.
In a statement police said they accepted the findings.
“This was an incredibly difficult situation for all those involved and officers did everything they could to resolve this situation peacefully under extremely stressful circumstances,” Bay of Plenty district commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said.
“This outcome is an absolute tragedy and the last thing any officer wants.
“At all times the priority of police was ensuring the safety of the two children who were at real risk of harm.
“I am confident that every decision made along the way was made to protect them.
“Our thoughts remain with the family and loved ones of the deceased, the children involved and the police staff who were faced with a very challenging situation,” he said.