An armed woman fatally shot by police outside a Whangarei shop on Thursday had been involved in a scuffle with police last Tuesday, it was reported.

The woman, in her 30s, died from a single bullet to the chest after pointing what police thought was a shotgun at officers outside a Vodafone shop. The firearm was later found to be an air rifle.

She was the first woman shot dead by New Zealand police.

The woman was reportedly overheard to say that one of the staff members “owes me money for drugs”.

Last Tuesday, the woman had been involved in a scuffle with police after allegedly stealing money from a Vodafone staff member’s daughter, TV3 reported.

“Again, that’ll be something that will be examined through the investigation, as to going back and retracing her movements, not only yesterday but in the days leading up to this incident,” Acting District Commander Inspector Chris Scahill said.

Police have not named the woman, who had no known family in New Zealand, as they were still trying to contact relatives overseas.

The drama began when the armed woman entered the First Mobile Vodafone Shop in Reyburn St in Whangarei’s CBD, about 9am on Thursday.

Several staff members fled through a rear door but the woman held a man hostage. Police said she also took cash from the till.

The woman opened the door of the shop at least twice and was challenged by police to put the gun down and surrender.

Finally she opened the shop door again and reportedly pointed her gun at a member of the armed offenders squad crouched behind a car. He fired one shot hitting her in the chest.

“She came out quite calmly, just pushed the door open with her left hand, and as she held it there she sort of raised her right with the gun that was in her hand and basically that was it — she was shot, so the next thing I just seen her take a bit of a jolt back,” a witness told TV3.

Police tried to resuscitate her but she died at the scene. Her body was later removed.

Witnesses said the woman appeared to be on drugs.

One, who saw the woman drop to the ground and not move again, told NZPA she was “pretty nuts”.

Shop owner Brett Sawyers, 50, raised the alarm after he fled the store.

The male worker held hostage was not hurt.

Police have begun a homicide investigation, and the officer in charge of professional standards has been notified. The Independent Police Conduct Authority would also Mr Scahill said the shooting was a “tragic incident for all that have been involved”.

The policeman who shot the woman was “shaken up” and, like his colleagues, was receiving counselling.