The man is taken into custody after the siege. Photo / Nick Reed
The man is taken into custody after the siege. Photo / Nick Reed

NZ siege finally ends

FAMILY of the man at the centre of a New Zealand siege have tearfully told how they "still love our son" after he was arrested by police, surrendering peacefully this morning.

Four police officers were hospitalised, one in a serious condition, after being shot during a cannabis operation. 

Family members, who have been at the scene throughout the night, named the offender as 27-year-old Rhys Warren.

Mr Warren allegedly shot and injured four police officers yesterday during a drug operation in the small Bay of Plenty town of Kawerau, after which he holed himself up in a family property.

One officer remains in hospital in a serious but stable condition, another is in hospital awaiting further treatment for a gunshot wound to his hand and the two others have been discharged.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush has addressed media in Kawerau.

He provided more details about the shot police officers.

"This morning I visited the two seriously injured staff members at Waikato Hospital. They are currently in theatre - one is more seriously injured, he has a firearm injury to the head and it will be operated on as we speak. And the other officer has a firearm wound to his hand, and that also is being treated as we speak."

Mr Bush acknowledged all the medical assistance given to the four injured police officers.
The other two officers had been released from hospital, he said, and were at home with their families. He said all are receiving excellent support and help from their whanau and colleagues.

He confirmed that a 27-year-old local man had been arrested but said he could not go into any more details.
Mr Bush said the man would be appearing with serious charges "in the very near future".

He also thanked Taupo police area commander Inspector Warwick Morehu.

Mr Bush said Mr Morehu kept a close liaison with the man's whanau and was also involved with talking to the man and helping to bring the situation to a safe conclusion.

Mr Morehu said it was really clear that a priority was to have a relationship with the family of the man.

"To understand what their needs and their anxieties were regarding the situation and obviously [part of] my negotiations with their son was to be able to convey some of that stuff. Certainly good communication with the family was key."

As well as some higher level communication with iwi leaders to keep them in the picture and provide them with some oversight, comfort and explanation, he said.

Mr Morehu said he has had some dealings with the same family back in 2009 when he was looking after Kawerau Police Station and that this helped when building rapport.

When asked if the police fired any weapons during the stand-off, Commissioner Mike Bush said: "Yes, there was an exchange of gunfire but we're about to commence our investigation and our scene examination, so I can't go into any more detail on that as yet, because we don't know the full circumstances."

He said Police think three of the officers were shot with a shotgun and one may have been shot with a .22 rifle.
"But again, it's early days in the investigation and we need to confirm that."

Mr Bush said his understanding was that the first three officers were shot inside the house, but again said that it was still very early in the investigation.

He said the fact that the four officers were shot "speaks to their courage".

"Our police staff go into very dynamic situations. We don't always know what we're dealing with but our staff are very well trained, they're well equipped. I'm really thankful that they were wearing the right equipment because this could have turned out differently but due to their professionalism and training I don't think it could have turned out any better than it actually did."

Mr Bush said there would be a debrief on the incident, however, as there were for all incidents like this.
Mr Warren was arrested after a 22-hour stand-off with police, and wore sunglasses and a dark top as he left the scene in the back of an unmarked police car.

Family members voiced encouragement and tapped the car as he was driven away.
They gathered around to pray with a priest.

Mr Warren's mother Renee Wetini told the Herald her son was "clearer" in his head.
"He's a bit clearer in his head, he would have been scared yesterday, frightened...with the helicopters and everything."

She said the siege's peaceful end could serve as a lesson for others. The family had wanted to be involved from the outset and if they had not, the outcome could have been "devastating".

"We still love our son and we're very happy with the outcome, couldn't have done it without the whanau. This is what we wanted all along. We felt that we couldn't do it without the whanau intervention. We believe that maybe police will be able to use this as an example...rather than going in guns' blazing."

What we know
• Four police officers were shot
• One remains in hospital in a serious but stable condition, two have been discharged, and the fourth will undergo further treatment for a gunshot wound to his hand
• Gunman arrested after 22-hour stand-off with police
• Confirmation came from police just after 9am
• Cordons was in place at Onepu Spring Road
• Shots were fired at a police plane flying overhead
• A no-fly zone was been put in place
• A police negotiation team is at the scene
• Defence force staff and Special Tactics Group officers brought in

How things unfolded

Wednesday:

10.45am: Police hear three shots in the Otakiri area in the Bay of Plenty during an operation using a plane.

11.30am: Police cordon off a rural property on Onepu Springs Rd, Kawerau after another shot is fired at the plane, which is believed to have been searching for cannabis crops.

1pm: The Armed Offenders Squad arrive in Kawerau after being called out from Rotorua.

3.45pm: Police confirm three officers have been shot. A large police operation is underway at the property, where the gunman is believed to be holed up.

4.15pm: Two Rotorua officers arrive at Whakatane Hospital. A third officer is airlifted to Rotorua Hospital.

5.40pm: Police confirm a fourth officer has been shot.

6pm: Police hold a media briefing at National Headquarters in Wellington confirming they are only looking for one shooter.

7pm: Police announce a defence helicopter has been deployed to the scene along with three light armoured vehicles.

7.25pm: Police say a 3 mile radius no-fly zone has been established around the area.

8.50pm: Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed he is en route back to New Zealand.

Thursday:

6.30am: Police say the situation remains unchanged overnight with no further shots fired.

9:00am: Police confirm a man has been arrested.

*All times are NZ time



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