No Ordinary Sunday

02.03.2012

tags: NSW Police, Botany Bay, Armed Robbery, Police Shooting,

discussion: 0 comments

By Inspector Andrew Bullock, New South Wales Police Force

From the March 2012 issue of The Australian Police Journal

The Saturday night shift on 30 May, 2009 was no different from any other at Sydney’s Botany Bay Local Area Command (LAC); the usual run of domestics, drunken behaviour, checking bona fides and driving complaints. Like most Saturday nights at Botany Bay LAC, the post-midnight hours into Sunday resembled a ghost town and the staff settled into a routine of patrols, catching up on data entry and, of course, caffeine intake.

Shortly after 5am (Sunday 31 May, 2009), with the shift drawing to a close, the night-shift staff were getting ready to end their shift. Because the morning supervisor had come in early, Sergeant Steve De Lorenzo had removed his firearm already and replaced it in the gun safe, but thankfully not his appointments belt and TASER®. This early preparation was about to become very significant, with dramatic consequences within the next half hour.

Tevi Koloamatangi

Born in 1969 in Tonga, Tevi Koloamatangi immigrated to Australia when he was 10 years of age and thereafter lived in Hornsby in Sydney’s north-west. He displayed a penchant for violence, with charges including armed robbery and assaults.

Throughout his life he added to his criminal history with a string of drug possessions, more armed robberies, serious assaults, break and enters and firearms possession. Addicted to the drug ‘Ice’, Koloamatangi was an extremely violent and dangerous offender who had served numerous prison sentences throughout criminal career. It was clear that prison hadn’t been a deterrent on his criminal ambitions, and at no time was this more obvious then in the minutes that would follow the police’s arrival at the Lakes Hotel.

At about 5.20am on Sunday 31 May, 2009, Koloamatangi was driven to the late-finishing Lakes Hotel, in the Southern Sydney suburb of Rosebery, by Nicholas Faraj. Farajwaited in the getaway car whilst Koloamatangi, dressed in black jeans, a dark, hooded jumper and balaclava; and armed with five-shot .357 magnum revolver, entered the hotel through the Macquarie Street door. As he entered the hotel, he confronted staff members Damien Robinson and Matthew Edmonds and security guard Silivesteli Lopeti, who just finished their shifts. He forced them back into the hotel to the bottle shop and adjoining office area. At this time, Licensee Dianne Moran was in her upstairs office and, upon hearing the commotion, dialled Triple Zero (000).

The Call

Within minutes of the call being made, the police radio sprung to life with firstly a “double beeper” (an urgent call indicated by two long beeps), and then the message that there were “persons on premises” at the Lakes Hotel, Rosebery, and that an offender has staff holed up in an office. The informant was in an upstairs office waiting for police, and other staff were being held in an office downstairs. There was no other information.

The response from police was immediate. Steve De Lorenzo raced to the hotel in the supervisor’s car, with his ‘Glock’ service pistol stored in the station’s firearm safe, but at least still wearing his appointments belt which had capsicum spray, handcuffs, and spare rounds for his absent Glock. All police, including myself, arrived at the scene almost simultaneously with cars forming a perimeter around the building. I left the police vehicle at a service station directly across the road from the hotel and walked directly to the front. I conducted an external inspection, checking for any broken exterior entrances, including windows and doors. I found that the side door was open and indicated to the members present that we were going in.

There were many thoughts and scenarios that had raced through my mind by this time, including the possibility that the job was an armed robbery. However there had been no mention of a firearm, the hotel had been closed for some time and, in my 20 years in the NSW Police Force; an armed robbery on a hotel at 5:30am was extremely rare, if not unheard of. Regardless, the call referred to staff being ‘holed up’ in the office and this indicated to me they had obviously interrupted the offender, and the welfare of those people became a priority.

The Entry

The decision to enter was communicated to all police and I entered the hotel followed by Senior Constable Matt Armstrong and Steve De Lorenzo. We put Probationary Constable Rachel Warn, with her three weeks’ service, at the door as a last line of defence. The doorway led down a corridor, past a large open room under renovation and then past a recently renovated bar on the left, with the dining area straight ahead. As I cleared a small room, Steve De Lorenzo and Matt Armstrong went past and continued through the hotel.

On clearing the room, I came back out behind Steve De Lorenzo and Matt Armstrong, with Constable Andrew Sharpe and Constable Emily Spencer coming in through the same side entrance. We entered the main bar area which opened up into a large drinking and dining area, with a long bar on our left heading down to a doorway which led through to the bottle shop. By now, Steve De Lorenzo was half way down the bar and waved us over. We could now hear loud talking coming from the bottle shop, and we headed down along the bar towards the doorway. Steve De Lorenzo, with TASER in hand, walked to the doorway and pushed his way past one of the staff members who was standing at the door. As Steve De Lorenzo entered the office, he disappeared from my view, but within a second I heard the bang of his TASER discharging and the distinctive buzz and ticking sound of the electricity flowing through the points. Assuming he had just brought an offender down, I moved towards the office door.

Shots Fired

Unbeknown to us, Steve De Lorenzo had just confronted Tevi Koloamatangi who was armed with a .357 magnum revolver. As luck would have it, one of the TASER probes had hit the zip of Koloamatangi’s jacket and harmlessly bounced off, doing nothing more than startling him. Upon seeing Steve De Lorenzo, Koloamatangi without hesitation raised his revolver, pointed it towards Steve and fired ...

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