Man jailed for drive-by shooting on busy street

Kaleb Bell said he shot at a drug dealer who ripped him off to protect his "street cred". PHOTO:...
Kaleb Bell said he shot at a drug dealer who ripped him off to protect his "street cred". PHOTO: ROB KIDD
A man who shot twice at drug dealers on a busy Dunedin street represents "a truly shocking act of vigilante justice", a judge says.

Kaleb Bell, 26, appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to discharging a firearm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Justice Jonathan Eaton jailed him for two years and three months and said the drive-by shooting near a city skatepark showed "astonishing disregard" for public safety.

"You could so easily have been facing a charge of murder. This was a truly shocking act of vigilante justice," he said.

On March 10 last year, Bell arranged to buy cannabis from the victim in St Kilda but when he arrived, the people in the car brandished a sawn-off shotgun to enforce a "stand-over".

As they left, the defendant managed to snatch the firearm from them.

"Quite how you achieved that remains unexplained," Justice Eaton said.

The victims drove off at speed but Bell, driving his mother’s BMW, caught up with them as they waited at lights in Thomas Burns St.

Her pulled up beside them, less than a metre away, aimed the shotgun at the victim in the back of the Mazda and pulled the trigger.

"The sawn-off shotgun kicked up and most of the spread of pellets hit the top of the door frame ... leaving a large hole in the metal 7cm in circumference," a summary said.

One pellet hit the victim in his forehead, slightly above his right eye, lodging itself under the skin but not damaging his skull.

"Had the shot been a few inches lower, the victim would have been shot directly in the head," police said.

Bell travelled north into the St Andrews St extension and did a U-turn to face the victim’s vehicle again.

As the Mazda negotiated the roundabout, the defendant steadied the weapon on the window frame and fired again, smashing another window of the victim’s vehicle.

Justice Eaton accepted Bell had addiction issues but said the incident was motivated by a desire for revenge.

"That you were willing to engage in such a grave risk of killing another person or persons, not ... as a spontaneous reaction to the circumstances that confronted you but rather driven by anger and an overriding desire to exact retribution, is alarming," he said.

Bell told Probation the stand-over had cost him $20,000 and he had taken such drastic action to maintain his "street cred".

"It’s [a] lack of logical, intelligent, normal thinking," his counsel, John Westgate, said.

"He was out of control — he admits that."

He pointed to his client’s background as being an overwhelming factor in his current predicament.

The judge said Bell had grown up in a "highly dysfunctional and abusive" home where crime and antisocial behaviour were normalised.

He was also exposed to drug use early in his childhood, the court heard.

Justice Eaton made a forfeiture order for the BMW and a firearms prohibition order against Bell.

It can now be revealed an accomplice almost joined him behind bars.

Last week, 54-year-old Craig Evan O’Sullivan came before the Dunedin District Court, where he was sentenced to eight and a-half months’ home detention on a charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

After the shooting, O’Sullivan provided Bell with a car cover for the BMW, gave him a burner phone and hid the shotgun at an address in South Dunedin.

Judge Michael Turner called it "a deliberate attempt to frustrate the police investigation into a serious violent offence".

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter