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Police killing of Kaoss Price 'drastic', friend says

A family friend of Kaoss Price, the young man shot dead by police on Saturday night in Taranaki, says there was no justification for shooting him because he was unarmed.

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The 22-year-old was shot dead on State Highway 3 after a run in with officers.

It was only late yesterday afternoon that the police revealed Price didn't have a gun, but was trying to hijack vehicles from people after ramming a police car with his car.

A family friend, Stacey O'Carroll, said this was not a strong enough justification to shoot and ultimately kill him.

"Why such a drastic measure? He's only a kid. Being unarmed ... holy hell man, that's just wrong. You shouldn't be able to shoot someone who's unarmed. That is crazy man. I can't believe it," O'Carroll said.

The statement on the incident, from Assistant Commissioner Sandra Venables, said officers were talking to a person they had pulled over on the main highway when Kaoss Price drove past without his headlights on. He turned around, and driving at speed narrowly missed the stationary police car.

He turned around again and came back, this time ramming into the police vehicle at speed.

Police say he then got out of the car and attempted to commandeer a number of vehicles from members of the public who had stopped.

He was shot while trying to get into one of these cars, the statement said.

He did not have a firearm, nor was one found at the scene after the fact.

The police's "use of force principles", which RNZ has seen, include: "there is no justification for firing at a suspect when they are no longer a threat to life".

Police 'use of force' principles - ex-OIA
Police "use of force principles". Photo: Supplied / Police

In situations where firing a shot is justified, police say officers must fear or believe on reasonable grounds that the offender poses a threat of "death or grievous bodily harm", and where they cannot reasonably protect themselves, arrest the offender or prevent the escape of the offender in a less violent manner.

These are under sections 39, 40 and 48 of the Crimes Act 1961.

Police 'use of force' principles - ex-OIA
Police "use of force principles" Photo: Supplied / Police
Police 'use of force' principles - ex-OIA
Police "use of force principles" Photo: Supplied / Police

Stacey O'Carroll thought the description of events showed there were other, non-lethal options the officers could have tried.

"Why not go after the guy and try apprehend him, or taser him, or wrestle him to the ground or something?"

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, Te Paati Māori co-leader, is a whānau friend of Kaoss Price's whānau and has been in regular contact with them since.

She said the communication from police has been a "staged performance" and they've been extremely slow in releasing critical information like the fact the young man was unarmed.

She too thinks they had other options.

"No it doesn't seemed justified. But we don't know all the facts because it's taking them so long, and they're drip feeding the public.

"They're certainly drip feeding the whānau because the whānau have been asking questions from day one. I would have hoped, if anything, that they deserve the respect to know exactly what happened to their son, their grandson, their brother."

Ngarewa-Packer said it seemed Price was already injured when police shot him. She said witnesses she and Price's whānau had spoken to said there was a gunshot heard before Price was seen running away injured, and he was shot after this, raising the possibility he was shot on two separate occasions. The police statement does not say how many rounds were fired at Price nor how many hit him.

Ngarewa-Packer thought if police were wearing body cameras it would give a clear picture of what has happened.

"Absolutely, police should wear body cameras for their protection and for the public transparency, and the use of dogs. Particularly in our community, because there's just one too many incidents."

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Te Paati Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Lawyer and justice advocate Julia Whaipooti said she is acting as a liaison for the family.

"Really to manage the communication and the processes that are happening now with the investigation, and for the whānau at this moment in time who are grieving the loss of their loved one. I'll be meeting with the whanau over the next few days," Whaipooti said.

Stacey O'Carroll was worried about what this shooting might do to the relationship between the community and police.

"There's a lotta youngsters out there today that know this boy and to hear that he's been shot unarmed... you want to have respect for the cops, but how can you have respect for cops when they're doing something like this?"

The police declined to be interviewed. They said they are talking to a significant number of witnesses and have examined 15 vehicles and a trailer.

Three senior officers have come from outside Taranaki to lead the investigation.

Police would like to speak to anyone with information or footage that may help their investigation.

Information can be provided to Police by emailing: [email protected]