Kaitāia whānau "shocked" after Armed Offenders Squad storms home

By Raniera Harrison

A Kaitāia whānau has been left reeling after the Armed Offenders Squad stormed their family homestead last night.

It was the culmination of a three-hour manhunt across the small Far North town which saw police from as far away as Auckland called for assistance.

Thirteen children in the household witnessed first-hand the frightening scenes.

"We were just really scared that we were going to get shot at, or even worse our kids were going to get shot at," says Muriwai Tukariri-Popata (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Kahu).

The whānau still quite can't believe what they witnessed in their own home. 

Armed squad members entered the Kaitāia property after receiving information on the whereabouts of a suspect at large.  However, those inside the property at the time say the use of force was "excessive".

"They stood on the fence-line with their guns and their lights and all you seen was Dad move those kids away from the windows," says Rachel Heighway (Ngāti Kahu).

The police helicopter was used during the near three-hour man hunt last night, culminating in Matthews Ave being cordoned off.

Today, locals are still shocked at the presence of armed police on their quiet road.

"'Go back inside!  Go back inside!'  There was none of that.  I'm telling the in-laws to go back inside there's a guy running around with a gun," says Tania Matiu (Ngāti Porou).

Two men appeared in the Kaitāia District Court earlier this afternoon facing a variety of charges relating to the incident, ranging from assault, being involved in an organised criminal group and the assault of a police officer.

"There were no shots fired, we had specialists in place including the police negotiation team to avoid that- that's the last thing we wanted," says Senior Sergeant Russell Richards.

Although name suppression is not in place for either of the accused, Te Ao has chosen not to broadcast them.  The pair are related to the thirteen children who, according to their carers, were exposed to pepper spray fumes in the incident last night.

"That's what I said to the police officer, 'do you have any kids?' He said yes - 'what would you do if someone done this to your kids, to you and your kids?' and he said 'oh I'd be mad too', but there's nothing we can do." says Hera Edwardson.

However, Kaitāia Police say they were conducting themselves according to proper procedure.

"We don't want to come in to people's homes. It is invasive.  However, when we have the grounds to do so, and it will keep the community safe, we will do so," says Richards.