Jerrim Toms shooting: Substance abuse partly to blame for his declining mental health - coroner

Jerrim Toms' sister Natasha holds a picture of him.
Jerrim Toms' sister Natasha holds a picture of him. Photo credit: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly


A coroner says substance abuse played a role in Jerrim Toms' declining mental health on the day he was killed by police.

Toms was shot several times when he approached police while holding a machete in March 2018 on State Highway 1 in Pohuehue, Northland.

In a report of her findings, Judge Debra Bell made no recommendations but concluded that Toms had been killed by two gunshot injuries to his chest.

Police had fired 12 shots and Toms was struck by five: Two to his chest, another two to his hands, and one to his lower back.

Toms was unable to be revived by police and other emergency staff.

Bell said she had seen clear evidence Toms was behaving in a threatening way.

"Despite numerous opportunities given to him during the pursuit to comply with the law, Toms' actions remained threatening and dangerous," she wrote.

"I agree [with police] that Toms posed a serious risk to the public."

The shooting came after a lengthy pursuit in which Toms' vehicle was spiked three separate times.

After the second spiking, Toms exited his car and hit the patrol car's front passenger door and window before fleeing once again.

Bell acknowledged that the incident was uncharacteristic for Toms.

"[He] is recalled by his family as a kind-hearted and loving person," she wrote.

Toms was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016 and had a history of substance abuse, including cannabis and methamphetamine.

Bell said it was evident substance abuse had a negative impact on Toms' mental state.

She accepted an earlier conclusion by the Independent Police Conduct Authority that a Taser, pepper spray or baton would have been unlikely to incapacitate Toms before he could attack the officers.