Friend describes man shot by police in Waitara as a ‘tough and cool guy’

A lifelong friend of the man shot and killed by police in Waitara this week says he doesn’t hold a grudge against the officers involved in the death of Alan Rowe – who he simply knew as Snow.

L-R: Alan 'Snow' Rowe, Sasa leota, Stacey O'Carroll and Andrew Sharman.

L-R: Alan ‘Snow’ Rowe, Sasa leota, Stacey O’Carroll and Andrew Sharman. Photo: Supplied

Instead, Stacey O’Carroll blames himself for losing contact with a mate – who he considered a brother – and not being there when his friend needed him most.

O’Carroll said the two men met at Manukorihi Intermediate.

“I grew up with Alan. I’ve known him since we were probably about eight or nine years old and we have an intermediate school here in Waitara and that’s where I became, not mates, but brothers with Snow Rowe, Alan.”

O’Carroll said even as they got older he and Alan, who was 54, were inseparable.

“Snow was the cool mate that everyone has, you know. Everybody had a cool mate where he’s got the V8 cars, he’s got the Harley-Davidson bikes and stuff like that. To me, he was my coolest mate.

“And he was forever getting disqualified from driving, especially when we were playing sports together, so I always got to drive his Holden Premier with the big blower coming out of the bonnet. It was the deadliest car in Waitara.”

A talented sportsperson, Rowe was a member of the all-conquering Waitara Bears rugby league side in the 80s and represented Taranaki in the 13-man code as well as being a skilful touch-rugby exponent and softballer.

O’Carroll said he was a tough competitor.

“You know a lot of people didn’t like playing against Snow because he was tough, you know. He went out there to bend you over, hit you hard and run over the top of you.

“Although he was one of the quickest in the team instead of running around you, he just run over the top of you.

“I reckon he was a bit of a superstar, really. He was as just as good as Dave Watson and Tony Kemp [who made the Kiwis side] and all that, but obviously he’s had other things … he’s had a million things on his mind and was doing a million other things.”

O’Carroll said the friends had drifted apart in recent years over Rowe’s drug use.

“Snow go into a bit of trouble with drugs and stuff like that and I despise that … and so I didn’t really see Snow the last five or six years as maybe I should’ve.

“You know, maybe I should’ve been doing a buddy check with him more often, but I think it was because he was doing harder drugs maybe that he stopped coming around and I stopped going around there. So we didn’t stay tight, you know what I mean.”

O’Carroll said there had been a strong reaction to the mechanical engineer’s death in Waitara.

The scene of the fatal police shooting of a man on Mamaku Rd, south of Waitara, Taranaki.

The scene of the fatal police shooting on Mamaku Rd, south of Waitara, Taranaki. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

“Obviously it brings up memories of things like Steven Wallace and a lot of people are saying it’s bullshit and the cops are this and the cops are that. And turning on the police a bit.

“But they don’t seem to realise, you know, our mate had a gun and if you’re producing a gun you’ve got to be prepared to be shot.”

Wallace was shot and killed by police in April 2000 after challenging police with a golf club he had been smashing shop windows with on Waitara’s main street.

O’Carroll said the fact Rowe had not managed to get out of the driver’s seat of the stolen vehicle he was in when he was shot did not make much difference.

“It’s a hard one cause that’s all I’ve heard too. So he was in the car, but from what I hear they warned him four times and as soon as he’s grabbing the gun and they see a gun … you know.

“Snow was more than a mate to me, you know, he was my brother, but when he’s doing things like that, you know, the cops have got to … and I think the cops responded how they should’ve. They’ve got a job to do and they did it.

“Even though I love my mate and he’s my brother and that … he just shouldn’t have. I think he was just in a bad head space, you know, and maybe I could of, if I had gone and seen him more often and talked to him, maybe we wouldn’t be in the situation that we are in.

“I cried for a couple of hours when I found out, you know, but it’s just a real hard one. And you’ve got to think about the cops who actually shot him as well. It’s not something you are going to do until you have to and I just feel for them as well you know.”

O’Carroll said he expected Snow, whose body was expected back at his Brixton home within 24 hours, would get a huge send off.

“Obviously we’ve got to abide by the Covid thing, but I’d say probably half of Waitara will probably turn out even though you are only allowed 50 there. But as long as they keep that distancing sorted there’s no reason there couldn’t be 200, 300 or 400 people there. There might be just one big line of people half way down to Waitara there.”

The four officers involved in the shooting of Rowe have been stood down for 10 days and their weapons retained for balistics examination. The cutdown .22 rilfe carried by Rowe will also be tested to see if it was fired.

A Critical Incident Investigation into the shooting of Rowe is underway and the Independent Police Conduct Authority has been notified.

The death has also be referred to the Coroner.

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