First officer to aid murdered colleague Matthew Hunt testifies at trial

Constable Ilya Kokine paused, his voice quavering, as he recounted for jurors being one of the first officers on the scene after co-worker Constable Matthew Hunt was shot dead last year.

“I’m moving forward! Cover me!” the three-year police veteran had shouted moments earlier at the sergeant who was training him on traffic duty that day.

No, the sergeant said. They needed to wait for backup.

“Just f***ing cover my back,” Kokine recalled replying as he moved into a fast tactical walk. “I’m moving forward.”

Kokine is the second witness to have testified at the trial of Eli Bob Sauni Epiha, 25, who is on trial at the Auckland High Court charged with attempted murder of Constable David Goldfinch.

Last week, Epiha pleaded guilty to the murder of Constable Matthew Hunt and to reckless driving that caused the injury of a bystander. The plea, however, was just made public today.

Kokine told jurors from the witness stand that he was training in West Auckland on the morning in June 2020. He recalls waving to Hunt and Goldfinch, even though he didn’t know them personally, as the two patrol vehicles passed.

He also recalled seeing a suspicious vehicle – speeding, dirty and with odd stickers – pass by shortly before a muffled shout came over the radio,

“We’re under fire! We need help!”

“We essentially dropped everything,” Kokine recalled, explaining that he and his partner that day unloaded a rifle and a pistol from their car’s gun safe and tried to figure out where the under-fire officers were located.

A short time later, he said, a rubbish truck stopped and told them the shooting had occurred just around the corner.

“Do you guys know that your boys have been shot down the road there?” he recalled the driver saying before speeding off to the scene.

They noticed Hunt lying in the road when they arrived, motionless and “in the starfish position”.

“Mate, we’re here! Come to us!” he told jurors he yelled at Hunt. But he got no response.

At that point he saw people gathering around another man who was also on the ground. Worried that it could be the shooter, he approached with his gun drawn.

“Armed police, do not move!” he shouted. “Show me your hands!”

The wife of the man quickly responded: “It wasn’t us! It wasn’t us! It wasn’t us!”

She said the shooter had run down the road where he had come from. That’s when he ran back to the patrol vehicle and decided whether to move towards the downed officer, despite his sergeant’s misgivings.

It was recalling the moment that he saw Hunt up close that he had to pause to collect himself.

“He wasn’t making movement at that point,” Kokine recalled. “I guess I was hoping that things weren’t as bad as they looked.

“I guess it’s true what they say: Hope dies last.”

He called out to Hunt.

“Are you alright, mate? Are you good?”

But Hunt’s mouth and eyes were open, and his stomach wasn’t rising at all. He attempted to give CPR until other officers arrived and took over. ‘

“My hands were trembling,” he said.

The trial continues.

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