'Truly shocking act': Dunedin drive-by shooter jailed

Kaleb Bell in court today. Photo: Rob Kidd
Kaleb Bell in court today. Photo: Rob Kidd
A man who shot twice at drug dealers who had ripped him off said he took such extreme retribution to maintain his "street cred".

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

Justice Jonathan Eaton jailed him for two years three months and said the drive-by shooting in central Dunedin 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, 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 and Bell followed in his mother's BMW.

Minutes later, he caught up with them as they waited at lights in Thomas Burns St and pulled up beside them, less than a metre away.

Police at the scene of the shooting. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Police at the scene of the shooting. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Bell aimed the shotgun at the victim, sitting in the rear 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 of the victim's vehicle 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 fracturing or 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 pulled 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 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 was normalised.

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

There was some cause for optimism though.

Bell had been working with at his grandfather's demolition business while in the North Island on bail and the man had noticed a change in his grandson.

"I believe Kaleb has the chance to turn his life around and become a successful businessman," he said.