New Zealand police officer shot dead during routine traffic stop

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(Reuters) – A New Zealand police officer was killed and another seriously injured on Friday after they were shot during a routine traffic stop, the country’s police commissioner said, as officials urgently hunted for the suspect.

Schools and daycare centres near the scene of the incident in Auckland were on lockdown as police searched for the shooter, who also injured a member of the public when fleeing by car.

The two officers were unarmed, which is usual procedure in New Zealand, where only specialist police like those at airports or in tactical response teams routinely carry guns.

“At this stage, there is nothing to indicate this job was going to be anything out of the ordinary,” Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said at a media briefing in Wellington. He did not provide details on why the car was stopped by the officers.

The fatally wounded officer was the first in New Zealand, where gun crime remains relatively rare, to be killed in the line of duty in at least a decade.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the 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,” Ardern said in a statement.

New Zealand has tightened gun laws twice since a gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch last year in the country’s worst peace-time mass shooting.

The country’s lawmakers on Thursday passed legislation to create a new firearms registry that licence holders will be required to update as they buy or sell guns.

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