A witness to the fatal police shooting of unarmed Taranaki man Kaoss Price last weekend says two shots were fired, and he believes Price could have been detained by other means.
The man, who has spoken to 1News on the condition of anonymity, says he was one of the first witnesses on the scene when 22-year-old Price was shot by police.
Police say at 9.30pm on Saturday 16 April, a police unit conducted a vehicle stop on an associate of Price’s who he was driving in convoy with along SH3 between New Plymouth and Waitara. They say while police were speaking to the driver of the first vehicle, Price rammed a stationary police car at speed.
In a statement on Thursday, Police Assistant Commissioner Sandra Venables said Price had attempted to commandeer "a number of vehicles from members of the public" after he rammed the police car, and he was shot "while attempting to take control of one of these vehicles".
The witness says Price didn’t attempt to enter his car, and he didn’t see him trying to enter anyone else’s, but he says there were two gunshots. A police dog was also at the scene of the shooting.
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“The first gunshot when Kaoss went past me, he was on a lean like he had been injured, and when I come to reflect on it, it looked like he was running for his life,” the man said.
“Between five to 10 seconds later, that’s when I hear the second gun shot.”
He says, based on what he saw, he believes the police dog could have detained Price, without the need for gunfire.
“The dog definitely could have done something to prevent that second shot. If Kaoss was injured he wasn't going far, you have to run up a hill, that dog was fast as, that dog would have got him.”
He says after the second gunshot, he heard a female witness and a man yelling.
“She has jumped out of her car…she was going off her rocker, real angry. The next voice that I heard was a male voice yelling ‘go, go, get out of here’ really loud. That's the voice that overpowered everything, after that I heard the girl start crying.”
He says he spoke to an officer who asked to see his licence, but was surprised he was able to leave the scene without being interviewed, despite being a key witness.
“I was first person to come from Waitara to see what had happened…but then I was able to leave.”
The man says he’s “terrified” over the incident and hasn’t returned to his home.
“I haven't slept properly, I think about it in my dreams, it's still vivid in my mind every day, there's certain parts of it I can't shake at the moment.”
Price is the fifth person to be fatally shot by police in Taranaki since 2000. The witness says he’s fearful of police, and was only able to give a formal statement in recent days thanks to help from a support person.
"All the shootings that have happened in my home town of Waitara…I didn't feel like I could trust police as well…I knew Adam Morehu, Snow [police shooting victim Allan Rowe], my family knew him through his league days, Steven Wallace, my cousins went to school with him, it happens too much in the town of Waitara."
New Plymouth District Councillor Dinnie Moeahu also knew many of the victims, including Wallace, who he was good friends with.
"That trauma that's been experienced from the community, from the whānau, from the township of Waitara, it stays with each of us," he said.
"Every time there’s a shooting many of us who were close friends to Steven, many of us who understood the other shootings, it brings up historic feelings again and it’s just hard to work through that when you’re trying to move forward."
He wants witnesses to come forward.
"There are big pieces of puzzle that haven't been forthcoming…if you aren’t strong enough to reach out to police, reach out to a family member, reach out to a community leader. Allow them to support you so we can make sure police have accurate accounts of what unfolded on the night, and let’s help this investigation be more transparent."
Ngāneko Eriwata, who’s been supporting the Price whānau says the loss has been hard for the family.
“The whānau at the moment are trying their best to stay together, this is not easy,” she said.
She says those in Taranaki want to see further fatal shootings prevented.
“The community are beyond wanting answers. They want change.”
1News has put the witnesses claims to police, but Assistant Commissioner Venables refused to comment while the investigation continues.
“The process of interviewing a significant number of witnesses is ongoing. Anyone who witnessed the incident and has not yet spoken to Police is urged to get in touch as soon as possible,” she said.
The Police investigation team can be contacted directly by emailing: OperationWoods@police.govt.nz