BOP officer injured, teens in court

The stolen Suzuki Swift came to a halt in the ditch after swerving to avoid road spikes. Both occupants were arrested. Photo: Diane McCarthy.

At about 8am, Whakatāne Police were notified of a stolen car at the Z service station, reportedly taken from Palmerston North the previous evening.

The car, a pink Suzuki Swift, was linked to other burglaries committed around the North Island overnight.

Police located the car and attempted to spike its tyres at a safe position on McGarvey Road in Whakatāne but the offenders managed to escape after ramming two police cars.

“It was obvious they weren’t locals; they didn’t know where they were going as they drove down several dead-end streets,” says Sergeant Chris Howard.

“They drove down McGarvey Road then at the dead-end turned around and deliberately rammed the parked patrol car, and then hit the second patrol car where an officer was injured.”

Senior Sergeant Al Fenwick says the officer suffered serious leg injuries after being hit by the stolen car as he was getting out of his police car.

He was taken to Whakatāne Hospital by ambulance and discharged Monday afternoon.

The driver and passenger, aged 17 and 18 respectively, were apprehended soon afterwards on the Whakatāne Bridge and taken into custody.

Road spikes were laid on the bridge and the Swift swerved to avoid them, careening off the road and coming to a stop after hitting a tree.

The car narrowly missed the police officer who lay the spikes, and who was alone on the bridge.

The two young males were apprehended by the lone female police officer.

“It was good police work really,” says Fenwick.

“There are only a few ways to get out of town so when stuff happens, we go to the points we think they’re going to.”

A witness, Lesley Hunter, was on her way to work in Whakatāne when she noticed the policewoman on the bridge, then saw the pink Suzuki Swift driving at speed towards her.

“The police officer must have seen the car coming because she chucked the road spikes out just before the car drove past.

“That was when I noticed it was going really, really fast.

“I had to slam on my brakes because the car came off the road in front of me and just missed [the police officer]. I was watching her face and she was like ‘holy s***! That just missed me,’ and in shock.”

She saw the Swift veer off the road and come to a halt in a ditch.

The passenger attempted to crawl out of the smashed side window and run but the police officer pulled out a taser, says Lesley. It is not known whether the taser was used.

“Again, good police work, particularly by one female police officer by herself who managed to spike the car and get the offenders,” says Al.

Chris says there has been an increase in crime in Whakatāne by out-of-town offenders recently.

“We think it’s all linked to the ram raiding of shops throughout the Bay and there was a burglary incident in Taupō as well.

“We suspect they’re stealing cars and doing these sorts of burglaries.

“When you catch these people, you tend to open a can of worms. You get jobs from all over the country where these cars have been involved,” he said.

The two teenagers arrested are facing numerous charges.

The 18-year-old appeared in the Whakatāne District Court and the 17-year-old in the Youth Court yesterday, jointly charged with two counts of aggravated assault, one charge of aggravated wounding, two theft charges relating to stealing petrol and one charge of unlawfully taking a motor vehicle.

The 18-year-old was remanded on bail to an address in the Taranaki and the 17-year-old was remanded in custody. They will reappear in court on April 1.

From a policing point of view, Al says the events of Monday morning are disappointing.

“These guys come to work to keep people safe and do the right thing. To have offenders essentially target our staff, it’s really disappointing.”

Police are seeking information from witnesses to the events on Monday, anyone who saw the pink Suzuki Swift can call the Whakatāne police station or 105, and quote file number 220314/1692.

-Whakatane Beacon/Alex Roa.

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