Kawerau siege: Did the police get it wrong?

Next month, 28-year-old Rhys Richard Ngahiwi Warren will be sentenced for attempted murder following his part in the so called Kawerau siege last year, where four policemen were injured in a shootout.

Throughout his trial Warren never denied firing his weapon, but said he felt threatened by the police in his house, reminding jurors of the distrust between Māori and police in the area following the Tuhoe raids, 10 years ago.

He argued his actions were in self-defence, the jury disagreed.

But how did it even get to that point? Could the shooting and siege have been avoided? Could a simple korero have changed everything?

Warren's mum, Te Araroa Wetini, believes the whole situation could've been avoided had the police contacted her earlier, before six armed officers stormed her house last year.

"They made a big mistake - they should've have come in, they should've contacted the family first."

The whanau can't understand why tear gas or police dogs weren't used to clear the house - six armed officers stormed the family homestead instead. The police say Warren fired the first shot.

Former police officer, now Massey University lecturer Steve Elers, says Insp Warwick Morehu's involvement to see a peaceful end to the siege is a prime example of what should've been done from the outset.

"It could've been resolved earlier by involving Māori iwi liaison officers, so I think this mentality of going in guns blazing, sure there's a time and place for it, but if we can get to those situations before it gets to that extent it's better for all parties."

Warren was never charged with any of the alleged crimes that led to the siege, and this is what his defence was based on. Warren was found guilty of attempted murder last month, he now awaits sentencing.

The police declined to talk to The Hui. The Independent Police Conduct Authority is investigating the operation.

The Hui

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