Police response 'extremely rushed' in Cerven shooting - firearms lawyer

Long Lunch 26/07/2018
Photo: Supplied.

A man shot dead by police in an Auckland park “wittingly or unwittingly contributed to his death”, a coronial inquest has found.

Slovakian national David Cerven was shot and killed by police in Myers Park in Auckland on the evening of August 2, 2015, after telling police to meet him to talk about a robbery.

The 21-year-old died five months after he and partner Eva Vyrvova moved to New Zealand on one-year working visas.

On the afternoon of August 2, Mr Cerven became aware police had released his name on Facebook, saying they were looking to speak to him about an armed robbery.

He confessed to the robbery to Ms Vyrvova, his partner, and both agreed to visit friends to ask for their advice.

Mr Cerven left Ms Vyrvova, saying that he’d go to police and turn himself in.

When the first two police officers arrived at the scene, they say Mr Cerven told them he had a gun. As more officers arrived he repeatedly refused to comply when told to take his hands out of his pockets and lie face down on the ground.

Two armed officers arrived at the scene, and told him: "Armed Police, get down on the ground". He then pulled his hands out of his pockets, bringing them together and pointing them in the direction of the officers.

All of the officers interpreted this as being that he had a gun that he was pointing at officers.

Coroner Katharine Greig said it's not clear whether at this point Mr Cerven had a self-destructive intent to provoke the police to use lethal force, or whether he thought they believed he had a gun (it was later discovered he did not have a gun).

"I am left in a state of uncertainty about his actions and intent, and accordingly am unable to conclude that his death was a suicide," she said.

Regardless of his intent, she found his actions - particularly after being challenged by armed police - "wittingly or unwittingly, contributed to his death".

Nicholas Taylor, an Auckland barrister and specialist in firearms lawyer, says eight rounds of ammunition were shot at Mr Cerven by attending officers, two minutes after they arrived at the park.

Mr Taylor told RadioLIVE’s Wendyl Nissen that the whole process on the evening of the event was “extremely rushed”.

“There was a lot of communication errors between police about exactly what was happening, even to the point of spelling his last name incorrectly by putting a T at the beginning instead of the C. So they didn’t actually find the accurate records in the police system of what had actually occurred before,” he said.

“The police arrived at the scene and they hadn’t had really good communication with their operations centre.”

Two ammunition shots hit Mr Cerven; “one hit him in the stomach, and one hit him in the side of the jaw and face,” Mr Taylor told RadioLIVE.

“It was a rapid succession of shots that occurred very quickly.”

Myers Park, where the shooting occurred, is located in Auckland’s central city and is surrounded by apartments, hotels and a school.

Mr Taylor says it a small area, right in the centre of Auckland, with “buildings everywhere”, and the shots fired by the firearms used could have injured, or even killed, a person up to 3kms away.

Police have acknowledged Coroner Greig's findings, which corroborate with Police and the IPCA's findings that the actions of Mr Cerven contributed to his death, and the officers' actions in shooting him were justified.

Listen to the full interview with Nicholas Taylor above.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.