Man who shot at police after carjacking pleads guilty

By Contributor

Emergency vehicles swarm after a dramatic incident involving a crashed car and multiple gunshots. Photo / Supplied

By Jeremy Wilkinson, Open Justice multimedia journalist, Palmerston North

A man who fired shots at police, hijacked a woman's car at gunpoint and then intentionally crashed it into a patrol car has pleaded guilty.

Caleb Kovaleski has today been convicted on a range of charges, most of them related to an incident in Manawatu last year where he led police on a "wild goose chase" ending in a serious crash.

The dramatic incident unfolded last January in Foxton after police signalled a vehicle to stop. Instead Kovaleski fled before driving back past police where he fired a shots at them from inside the car.

He then dumped his car and approached another motorist whom he forced from their car.

Kovaleski fled Foxton in the stolen car and made it as far as Feilding before being spotted by police who were able to deploy spikes to stop him.

However, just after driving over them he aimed his vehicle directly at a police car, firing more shots, before crashing into it.

Kovaleski was removed from the car by emergency staff and taken to hospital in a serious condition. He spent three weeks recovering.

The woman whose car was taken at gunpoint told the Herald through her cousin that she was still shaken up.

"He said 'sorry I just need a car'.

"He jumped in, passed her handbag and phone and left. That's all that was said between the two of them."

Emergency vehicles swarm after a dramatic incident involving a crashed car and multiple gunshots. Photo / Supplied

Emergency vehicles on the scene after a dramatic incident involving a crashed car and multiple gunshots. Photo / Supplied

Kovaleski went on to lead police on a "wild goose chase" - according to another resident - before eventually crashing.

The woman's cousin said the man never pointed the gun directly at her.

She was only travelling about 10km/h when he appeared out of nowhere.

"He just wanted a car. We know he messed up with what went on after he got the car."

This morning in the Palmerston North High Court Kovaleski pleaded guilty to a range of charges and will be back before the court for sentencing in September.

Acting Central District area commander Inspector Nigel Allan said in a statement at the time that no police staff were injured during the incident, and he was arrested without the use of firearms against him.

"This was an extraordinarily difficult and dangerous situation for our staff who were faced with a highly mobile offender whom it is alleged twice discharged a firearm at police and used that firearm in the commission of a robbery," Allan said.

"The fact that police were able to successfully apprehend this person without injury to the public or police staff is an absolute credit to the courage and professionalism of the staff involved."

'Massive crash' then shots fired: witness

Earlier, an eyewitness described the terrifying moment she heard a "massive crash" followed by multiple gunshots following a major police operation in Feilding.

Jessica Calverley, who was in the Manawatū town on holiday, said the at the time that the dramatic incident happened just after 7pm.

She said she heard police cars "flying past" on Kimbolton Rd, which is behind the house.

"There was suddenly a massive crash, the sound of metal on metal, a full-on crunch," she said.

She then went outside and heard several gunshots.

"There were probably three or four gunshots that went off. The cops were yelling for us to get back in the house. We ducked and ran back inside."

A few minutes later, she said she again heard police cars flying up the road.

"Then we decided to creep back out, maybe five minutes later, and there are probably 10 to 15 police cars on the road.

A green vehicle appeared to have crashed and the wreck sat smoking in the road.

"The man who was still left in the driver's seat, suddenly he was just blasting this music, it was almost like he was playing his last stand, his grand finale. It was a Māori song I've never heard, it was really beautiful but quite sort of sad-sounding.

"It was just seemed very strange to be in this high-tense situation and suddenly have the suspect blasting this sad waiata," she said.

"Eventually some fire trucks and an ambulance pulled up and they had to cut [a door off the car] and get someone out."

"They got this guy out and took him away," she said.

"The cops were running around with massive guns, there was a whole canine unit. There was a team in their Armed Offenders gear, so full black helmets, rifles and bulletproof vests, and everything."