The two police officers who arrested the accused Christchurch mosque gunman on March 15 have been honoured and received bravery awards at a ceremony in Wellington today.
The pair say they were just doing their jobs but are proud they were able to prevent the possibility of further casualties.
“We know our families are truly proud of what we were able to do, and that has helped tremendously in the past months.
“For us, knowing we played our part in possibly preventing further casualties is really important.”
The two officers were recognised for their efforts at the annual Police Association Conference, being held in the capital this week.
The awards were presented by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and were closed to media because the officers both have interim name suppression, granted by Justice Cameron Mander.
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It is understood both officers may be called to give evidence at the trial for Brenton Tarrant, the man charged in relation to the alleged terror attack.
The Australian national is charged with murdering 51 people during the attacks at the city’s two main mosques.
He is also facing 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.
The 28-year-old has pleaded not guilty to all charges and will go on trial next year.
He was arrested just 18 minutes after he allegedly started shooting indiscriminately at the
Al Noor mosque on Deans Ave.
Footage of the arrest went viral and the two officers who brought the accused mass murderer down were labelled heroes by the public and their boss Commissioner Mike Bush.
The Herald published exclusive details of the arrest in the days following the attacks.
The two officers – whose ranks and specific locations they are based cannot be reported for legal reasons – attended the awards today.
They were joined by family members.
The Police Association said officers A and B were extremely proud to be recognised, particularly as they were nominated by their colleagues.
“We were doing our job and were part of a huge and focused operation which resulted in the arrest of the alleged gunman. In doing our job we represented all Police staff around the country who put themselves in harm’s way every day. This includes those who have gone before us who set the bar high for the rest of us to meet,” the officers said.
“We have known each other for many years, including playing many games of rugby together, and had total trust in each other’s abilities, and total faith that the other would do their job and continue to go forward regardless of what we encountered.”
With a good knowledge of Christchurch and as experienced police officers, they had the foresight to consider potential escape options. At that stage they did not know if there was more than one offender, but the officers believed there was already a good chance the offender, or offenders, would have left the mosques.
They were proud of the way New Zealanders had united as a nation “that rejects such abhorrent views and actions that were behind this atrocity”.
“To those families who were torn apart by this event, through death or injury, our hearts go out to you all. As officers our job is to keep New Zealanders safe so when we can’t do that, it cuts deep.”
Police Association President Chris Cahill said all police staff were incredibly proud of the courageous actions of their two colleagues.
“All officers wonder how they would respond when faced with a split-second decision to risk their lives,” Cahill said.
“These two officers have answered that question by responding with outstanding bravery which protected many others from further harm.”
It is not unusual for the media to be locked out of such ceremonies as often police officers are being acknowledged for their work on cases still before the courts or subject to suppression.
In other cases the officers are recognised anonymously at the ceremony for operational reasons – or simply do not want any publicity.
New Zealand’s darkest day – how two cops caught an alleged killer
Three days after the massacre at the mosques the Herald published details of the arrest that went around the world.
The newspaper revealed that the two police officers who dragged the alleged gunman from a car following the second shooting came straight from a training session on how to deal with armed offenders.
The Herald has exclusive details about how the officers, after hearing there was an active shooter on the loose in the city, took to the streets to find him – and stop him.
The officers – who the Herald agreed not to name before the suppression order was made – are both based at stations out of Christchurch city.
Their boss said the pair had travelled into Christchurch to attend a training session around room clearance and dealing with offenders in armed incidents.
“They were actually training when the call came through that there was an active armed
offender in Christchurch,” their boss told the Herald at the time.
“They had their work vehicles there with them with firearms in them.
“They operationalised themselves and got into one car, they decided to skirt the city, they thought that’s what the offender would do – rather than drive through the CBD.
“They were driving on Brougham St.
Moments later they spotted a suspicious car.
“They saw someone fitting the description of the offender coming towards them,” said their boss.
“The car was weaving in and out of lanes with its hazard lights on.
“They confirmed the rego, that it was the right car, and did a U-turn.”
The officers’ boss said the pair had more than 40 years of policing between them and had the experience to handle the situation.
“They were trying to catch up with him, they were discussing tactics – did they want to
pursue him?” he said.
He explained how the officers weighed up a pursuit, where the gunman could have got away and “unleashed” on more innocent members of the public.
They also had to consider whether pursuing him would cause a crash which could also be fatal and involve innocent road users.
“They decided to bring it to an end as quickly as possible and they decided to immobilise the car by ramming it,” their boss said.
They rammed the gunman’s car on the driver’s side and footage supplied to the Herald shows the officers dragging him out of the passenger side.
One officer saw “high risk” items in the back of the car and ran back round to the police car to radio the information in and warn other police.
He believed those items would put his colleagues in danger and wanted to tell them to stay back.
While doing that he lost sight of the alleged gunman and was worried for his colleague so
he abandoned the plan and went back to the passenger side.
“He yelled at members of the public to get back,” said their boss.
“The car posed a danger.”
Once the alleged gunman was contained both officers used the radio to alert other police to the situation.
The officers’ boss has heard those communications – as has Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
Bush said the alleged gunman did not give himself up and was “non compliant”.
Their immediate boss said his officers remained composed throughout.
“I was surprised how calm and collected they were,” he said.
“They wouldn’t have been scared, we practice for this stuff – to be honest, it was lucky two officers with that amount of service and experience were there.
“One of the officers phoned me straight after to advise me that they’d damaged a car.”
He said it was the second car from his patch damaged in a week and he’d previously told staff not to wreck any others as they were already short.
He wasn’t worried though when he heard what his staff had accomplished.
He commended them for their work and hoped that one day they could tell their stories in their own words.
“It was a good catch,” he said.
“You could police for 100 years and not get an apprehension anywhere near that good.
“They did a good job.”
Footage of the arrest has been widely shared on social media and the officers have been hailed as heroes by many, including Police Commissioner Bush.
He said without their brave actions, it was likely more people would have been killed.
Their local boss spoke to both officers at length about their actions following the arrest.
The men said they were not – and did not want to be described as – heroes.
“They were just doing their jobs, what they are trained to do,” he said.
Both are taking some time off and one has travelled overseas on a planned holiday.
Cahill told the Herald he had spoken “in depth” to one of the officers and had been in contact with the other.
He said he – and the rest of the police – were extremely proud of the pair.
Police around the world had also contacted Cahill to ask him to pass on their messages of pride, support and commendation.
“They’re pretty humble guys, certainly ‘hero’ is not a word you’ll hear either of them use,” Cahill said.
“They made a decision, and they acted and they got a result.”
Cahill said the officers maintain they were just doing their job and “any cop would have
“That’s not true,” he said.
The officers did not want any public fanfare or attention.
“They are the sort of people who want to get on with the job,” said Cahill.
“But they understand the response.”