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. A large search was being conducted in Auckland for the alleged shooter and another person who escaped in a second car.
A bystander was also hit by the suspect’s car and injured. By Friday evening, police said they had found a gun and were talking to two “people of interest” in the case. They said police would remain on armed alert until they had confirmed they had the suspect in custody.
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-barrelled 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.