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Police will remain armed in parts of Southland as the search continues for a man who allegedly stole two police guns and a patrol car in Gore overnight.
Police have raided properties in the eastern Southland area today in the hunt for 24-year-old Hori Gemmell, who is wanted in connection with the incident.
Gemmell is alleged to have rammed a patrol car after police tried to stop his vehicle shortly before midnight in the Southland town.
He then then ran off, pursued by officers, who were also on foot.
Police say he then circled back and stole their vehicle, which had the keys left inside, and rammed another police car before abandoning the vehicle and taking two police-issued Glock pistols from the car's lock-box, each containing 17 9mm rounds.
Gemmell, of the Clutha District, had an existing warrant to arrest, Southern District Commander Superintendent Paul Basham said.
In a statement this evening Supt Basham said police were still looking for Gemmell. He was believed to still be in the area and was considered dangerous and should not be approached.
"We have reason to believe he may be connected to the incident and would like to locate and speak with him as soon as possible".
He said the pistols had not yet been recovered.
Supt Basham said finding Gemmell and the guns was "an absolute priority".
In relation to the keys being left in the patrol vehicle, Supt Basham said the protocol was for officers to take the keys with them when they leave the vehicle.
The Police Deputy Commissioner has signalled a review of procedures following the incident, RNZ reports.
Deputy Commissioner John Tims said procedures may need to change but he didn't believe training was a problem.
Supt Basham said the officers involved were now at home and he did not want to pre-judge their actions during the "dynamic situation,'' and was quick to defend the pair.
"Overall, they did a pretty good job.''
About 1am today in Wyndham, police saw a vehicle they believed was driven by Mr Gemmell, and began a 30 to 40-minute-long pursuit around rural Southland.
That pursuit involved a helicopter using thermal search gear and the Armed Offenders Squad, but he evaded arrest and remained at large.
About 30 staff were now involved in the search and specialist national staff had travelled to Gore to support the operation.
The incident would be referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.
Police said in the statement they were following strong lines of inquiry.
Increased police presence
The Thomas Green duty manager Georgia Rhind said she had not really heard or seen anything yet.
"It's crazy when things like this happen in Gore.
"Things like that don't really happen around here," she said.
Members of the public who preferred not to be named said they had noticed the increased police presence.
"We saw about eight police cars about 9am," Ebony 'n' Ivory hairstylist Kelly Thomson said.
"Apart from the cop cars we haven't seen anything else. It's just been a normal day".
Police urged people in Southland to ''be alert and stay safe''.
Dunedin police (03) 471-4800, Crimestoppers 0800-555-111.