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Father of Kaoss Price has ‘forgiven’ police for fatal shooting, blames himself instead

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By Tara Shaskey, Open Justice reporter of NZ Herald

Leigh Price, the father of Kaoss Price who was shot and killed by police in April 2022.

Leigh Price, the father of Kaoss Price who was shot and killed by police in April last year.
Photo: NZME / Mike Scott

The father of Kaoss Price who was shot and killed by police during a carjacking says he has “forgiven” police for his son’s death and instead blames himself.

Twenty-two-year-old Kaoss died on a stretch of State Highway 3 between New Plymouth and Waitara on 16 April last year.

Kaoss, a father-of-three from Taranaki, rammed a stationary police car before attempting to steal cars from passers-by.

Police then fatally shot him. He was unarmed and no guns were recovered from the scene.

On Friday, Kaoss’ father Leigh Price, 40, donned a black jersey with an image of his son pulling two middle fingers emblazoned on the back.

He was wearing it at his appearance in New Plymouth District Court where he also sported a tattooed memorial to Kaoss across his face.

One month out from the first anniversary of his son’s death, Price is still coming to grips with his loss, the court heard.

He was appearing for sentence on an assault that happened a month before Kaoss died.

The court heard that moments before the assault, Price’s son allegedly punched a man on Cook St in New Plymouth. It was not specified whether the son was Kaoss.

Price was present at the time and when the victim asked if he was “just going to allow that to happen”, Price ran over and struck the victim in the head a number of times.

The victim did not retaliate and as he went to pick up his bag that was on the ground, he fell over. While on his hands and knees, Price kicked him once in the torso.

After getting up, the victim went to a nearby dairy to phone the police. Price followed him and called out for a fight but this did not eventuate.

Police later went to Price’s address to arrest him and while there, officers located around 2kg of cannabis, some of which was packed into ziplock bags.

In court, defence lawyer Paul Keegan said losing Kaoss has had a “terrible” effect on Price and he felt “somewhat responsible for the events leading up to his son’s death”.

But he was now working on providing closure for himself in that regard, Keegan said.

Price believed the assault was “one domino” in the lead-up to Kaoss’ death.

“He entirely blames himself for his actions and that he did not do the right thing by his son,” Keegan said.

“He explained that it was only a month after the offending that his son was shot.”

In his submissions, Keegan relied on a “thorough” pre-sentence report which detailed Price’s remorse and insight into his offending, his new-found sobriety, and motivation to change.

It also canvassed childhood events that Keegan said were a causative link to Price’s criminal behaviour.

A memorial to Kaoss Price at the spot on State Highway 3 where he attempted to escape police.

A memorial to Kaoss Price at the spot on State Highway 3 where he attempted to escape police.
Photo: NZME / Mike Scott

Price wrote an apology letter to his victim and told the pre-sentence report writer that if he could go back and change what occurred, he would.

Since Kaoss’ death, Price’s consumption of alcohol, a principal issue, had decreased to the “point of being non-existent” and he had given up all “other” illegal drugs.

His reported state of sobriety was significant, Keegan said.

While Price’s criminal history was a “chaotic and assisted level of offending of mixed-type”, as described by Keegan, he was now working toward making “better and deliberate” decisions to ensure a more positive future.

In the interview with the report writer, Price said his son’s death had changed his life.

“It made me think about life and the path that I was on was not the right one,” Price said in the report.

“Having the right mindset to do the right thing motivates me to be a better person.”

He went on to tell the report writer, “I have forgiven them”. When asked what he meant by that, he responded “the police”.

Keegan urged the court to keep Price in the community with a sentence of home detention.

Crown prosecutor Rebekah Hicklin acknowledged Keegan’s submissions around the mitigating factors but raised concerns about drug and alcohol use and potential intimidation of the victim, asking that the sentence imposed address those factors.

Judge Gregory Hikaka was satisfied Price’s remorse and insight were genuine and said his abstinence from alcohol and drugs and that he was working full-time signalled his commitment to a better life.

“It’s a pity that it’s taken a tragedy to get to that point – but you realise that better than anyone.”

On a charge of assault with intent to injure and possession of cannabis for supply, Judge Hikaka sentenced Price to 10 months of home detention with six months of post-detention conditions.

An order was made for the destruction of the cannabis and Price’s $2030 in fines were remitted.

A police spokesperson confirmed an investigation into the death of Kaoss was ongoing.

Police were not able to provide a timeframe for the inquiry’s expected date of completion or the release of the findings.

Police previously said that on the night of Kaoss’ death, he had been following another vehicle in a convoy. His associate was pulled over by police in a vehicle stop on Devon Rd.

Kaoss then drove at high speed toward police – with his headlights switched off – before crossing the centre line and narrowly missing the stationary police car, assistant commissioner Sandra Venables said at the time.

“He continued down the road before making a second U-turn and driving back toward police, this time ramming the police car at speed,” Venables said.

The force of the impact shunted the police car off the road.

Kaoss’ car was immobilised due to the damage and he then tried to take a number of other motorists’ cars before he was shot.

This story originally appeared in the NZ Herald.

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