The outstanding bravery of two Christchurch police officers, who likely saved the life of a shot and wounded colleague, will be honoured today, as the Police Association presents New Zealand Police Association Bravery Awards to Constable Mike Wardle and former constable Marty Stiles.
The awards will be presented today by Sir Brian Lochore at the Association’s 76th Annual Conference in Wellington. The Police Association Bravery Awards are unique in that they represent recognition of an outstanding act of bravery by an officer’s peers.
“The actions of Constables Wardle and Stiles exemplified the traditions and highest ideals of policing. Their extraordinary bravery under fire from an armed offender likely saved the life of at least one of their colleagues, who had already been shot through the face,” Police Association President Greg O’Connor said today.
On 13 July 2010 Constable Mitch Alatalo and Constable Wardle were conducting a routine search of an address in Christchurch under the Misuse of Drugs Act. The aggressive manner of one of the occupants led them to call for backup. Constable Marty Stiles and dog handler Senior Constable Bruce Lamb, and his dog Gage, responded.
The occupant refused to come out of his room. When Senior Constable Lamb opened the door, the occupant immediately opened fire with a rifle, shooting him through the face. His next shot killed the police dog, Gage. He then came to the doorway and opened fire again, this time hitting Constable Alatalo as he retreated and was able to escape through a window.
While under fire, Constable Stiles grabbed his fallen and wounded colleague, Senior Constable Lamb, by the belt and dragged him back down the hallway towards safety. At the same time, Constable Wardle (then acting as Sergeant), confronted the gunman with a Taser. As he did so, the gunman aimed at Constable Wardle and pulled the trigger, but the firearm jammed. The officer fired the Taser, but it failed to incapacitate the offender.
In order to buy enough time for Constable Stiles to evacuate the wounded Bruce Lamb, Constable Wardle reloaded the Taser and continued to challenge the offender, who briefly retreated before again following the officers out of the house and down the drive while pointing his rifle at them. Constable Wardle provided cover for his colleagues while they retreated.
Following the officers’ retreat, further armed police arrived. The offender rearmed himself with a higher powered rifle, and was ultimately arrested by the Armed Offenders Squad.
“Constable Stiles showed extraordinary bravery, by dragging a seriously wounded colleague to safety while the officers were under fire. In doing so he put his own life at serious risk. It is this act of extraordinary bravery for which he is being honoured with a New Zealand Police Association Bravery Award,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Constable Wardle also showed extraordinary bravery, by standing his ground and engaging with a Taser an offender who was armed with a rifle and who had already shot two police, in order to cover the retreat of his colleagues, two of whom were wounded. In doing so he also placed his own life at serious risk. It is this act of extraordinary bravery for which he is being honoured with a New Zealand Police Association Bravery Award.
“A New Zealand Police Association Bravery Award is the highest honour the Police Association can bestow on its members to recognise such extraordinary acts. It is fitting that the awards are presented by Sir Brian Lochore, as a true New Zealand icon and representative of the society police are sworn to protect,” Mr O’Connor said.