WELLINGTON – An unarmed police officer was shot and killed and another was wounded after they tried to pull over a car in New Zealand's largest city Friday morning, police said.
The suspect and another person then escaped in a second car, sparking a large search in Auckland. By Friday night, police said they had arrested and charged a 24-year-old man with murder. He is due to make his first court appearance Saturday. Police said other people could face charges.
A bystander was also hit by the suspect's car and injured.
While trying to pull over the car, the officers briefly lost sight of it and it crashed soon after, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said. As police approached, a man got out with a long-barreled gun and fired multiple times at the two officers, Coster said.
The officers weren’t carrying guns. New Zealand police do not routinely carry guns but typically have them available in the trunk of their vehicles.
“This is a shocking situation,” Coster told media. “It is the worst news police, and police officers’ families, can ever receive in the course of what we do.”
Coster said the injured officer was hospitalized with serious leg wounds, while the bystander also suffered serious injuries and remained in a hospital. Both were in a stable condition.
As the manhunt unfolded, eight schools in the area were put into lockdown, Coster said, and police set up road cordons. They advised people to stay away.
The second car was found abandoned. Local media reported that heavily armed police had raided at least one home near the site of the shooting and had also stopped a car.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the news of the officer's death was devastating.
“To lose a police officer is to lose someone working for all of us, but also a family member, someone’s loved one and friend," she said in a statement.
Police Minister Stuart Nash said the officer “was a man who dedicated his career to keeping us safe.”
Witness Elaine Taniela told The New Zealand Herald she was at home when she heard gunshots. She said a friend who was on his way to her house at the time described seeing an officer on the ground shaking.
The last time a New Zealand police officer was killed in the line of duty was 11 years ago.
New Zealand last year enacted new gun control laws banning the deadliest types of semiautomatic weapons after a mass shooting in which a gunman killed 51 people at two Christchurch mosques during Friday prayers.
Auckland is home to about 1.7 million people.