LynnMall attack: Why police failed to prevent Ahamed Samsudeen from going on knife rampage

By Felix Walton for RNZ

A group of officers who were surveilling LynnMall terror attacker Ahamed Samsudeen say they did not have the right equipment to prevent the attack.

Samsudeen was shot 12 times by Police after injuring seven people in a knife attack at an Auckland supermarket in 2021.

A hearing to determine the scope of the coroner's investigation into Samsudeen's death resumed in Auckland for its second day Tuesday morning.

Coroner Marcus Elliott asked police why a group of three surveillance officers stayed outside when Samsudeen entered the LynnMall Countdown supermarket on 3 September 2021.

Todd Simmonds, the lawyer representing one of the surveillance officers and three Special Tactics Group (STG) officers, said the plainclothes surveillance officers were not equipped to confront an attacker.

"The surveillance staff were armed with pepper spray, they had their earpieces in, [and] they also had a retractable baton," he said.

"They certainly were not in a position to confront a highly motivated armed offender."

Simmonds noted that the surveillance officers, who had been following Samsudeen for seven weeks, needed to maintain their cover.

"[It's important] for them to be effective [to] remain covert and that of course explains why they had very limited tactical options," he told the coroner.

"The IPCA records that logical need for them to be able to remain covert should they need to enter the public arena."

The surveillance team was being supported by three STG officers, who did have access to weapons, two of whom entered the supermarket after seeing members of the public fleeing, and killed Samsudeen.

"The [STG] vehicle contains a number of tactical options," including tasers, Simmonds explained.

But he said the two officers who entered the supermarket did not have time to equip themselves and instead relied on lethal force: their glock pistols that were already on their person.

"They did not in the circumstances regard it as appropriate to take the time that would be needed to equip themselves with other tactical options including a taser," he said.

"It would've been great if the officers had the luxury of having a taser with them... [but] there was an overwhelming sense of urgency."

Simmonds argued that it was unnecessary for Coroner Elliot to relitigate the issues regarding the officers' actions in his investigation because they had already been covered by the IPCA in 2022.

Ahamed Samsudeen.
Ahamed Samsudeen. Photo credit: Supplied.

Reputation tarnished

Samsudeen was released from prison in the months before the attack and was housed at Masjid e Bilal to reintegrate into society.

The chair of the mosque, who has name suppression, made a submission to the coroner and said the attack tarnished his reputation.

He said the mosque was chosen because it had maintained a positive relationship with NZ Police and he provided regular updates on Samsudeen's progress.

"I would share text messages with the police to show how respectful and well-mannered my new tenant [was]. He was washing and cleaning bathrooms and toilets which I have photos of," he said.

"Samsudeen was also out visiting places, making friends and connecting with girls too ... he was swiftly becoming a normal man of his age."

But the chair said he was not told Samsudeen would be under constant surveillance.

"I had nothing negative to tell [police] other than Samsudeen's claim of being followed, which they categorically denied each time," he said.

"I do believe that if I was trustworthy enough to provide accommodation, I could therefore have been trusted with the fact that he was under surveillance. My approach would've been so much more different."

Police's surveillance team was being supported by three Special Tactics Group officers, who had access to weapons, and eventually killed Ahamed Samsudeen.
Police's surveillance team was being supported by three Special Tactics Group officers, who had access to weapons, and eventually killed Ahamed Samsudeen. Photo credit: Getty Images.

The chair said his reputation had been damaged due to assumptions that he was aware of Samsudeen's plan and was sheltering him.

"I was stood down because of this. I am still stood down with reasons that make absolutely no sense," he said.

"I am well known in the community, everyone started to distance themselves from me. My personal relationship took a toll, my kids were affected."

For the past three years he had been carrying the burden of being associated with a terrorist, he said.

"How do I tell my loved ones that I wasn't at fault? If I decided to get into another relationship, do I share this critical piece of information or wait till they find out for themselves?" he asked.

"I stopped giving my proper name to the parents of the football team or the parents of my children's friends ... for how long?"

He said Masjid e Bilal mosque condemned Samsudeen's attack and invited victims to visit and observe Ramadan.

"Let me convince you that all I was trying to do was help."