‘Wild shootings’ Grieving mothers demand answers from police
Ivoni Fuimaono has questions for the officer who killed her son – but a new law would protect police who open fire, reports Edward Gay.
Ten years after her son was mistakenly shot by the police, Ivoni Fuimaono just wants to sit down and have a cup of coffee with the officer who killed him.
The mother of Halatau Naitoko has written two letters to the officer and made repeated pleas to meet the cop known only as Officer 84.
As far as Fuimaono knows, Officer 84 is still serving in the police. But the police have refused to comment, and her invitation has gone unanswered. ‘‘I don’t hold anything against 84 because of my faith and because as a mother I know there is nothing that can be done to bring back my son,’’ she says. ‘‘But 84 is still carrying that burden.’’
Other mothers express the same pain at a lack of accountability for police who killed their sons. All three shootings were found to be justified. But Raewyn Wallace’s family is launching new court action over the killing of her son Steven by an officer who had been involved in a shootout before, and had vowed he would shoot to kill next time.
And Diane Richardson has custody of her grandchildren after the uncertified ‘‘Officer B’’ shot their dad Adam Morehu in the back – even though Morehu had already dropped his gun.
If passed, a new bill drafted by National Party police spokesperson Chris Bishop, would stop mothers like Fuimaono and Wallace and Richardson ever finding out who killed their loved ones.
Halatau Naitoko was killed on Auckland’s North-Western motorway as armed police sought to stop P-crazed gunman Stephen McDonald.
McDonald had fired at the police. But when the police opened fire they shot Naitoko, an innocent by-stander, and wounded another driver.
Eleven days later Officer 84 was back at work.
The officer was exonerated, but the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) found a litany of errors, mainly involving police policy and command structures.
Officer 84’s name has also been permanently suppressed by the courts.
‘‘My question is: What makes them different from everyone else?’’ says Fuimaono, a Mangere pastor. ‘‘Because they hold more authority? That’s not fair.’’
Adam Morehu played tea parties with his four year-old daughter, the day before he and a friend broke into the New Plymouth Golf Club, in June 2013.
According to an IPCA report, Morehu fired his sawn-off .22 when a police dog and handler tried to apprehend him.
Another officer, known as Officer B, heard the shot and armed himself with a Glock pistol. He turned his police radio off, and crawled behind Morehu.
Morehu was told to put his hands in the air. He responded with: ‘‘Can you see them on this f...ing gun?’’
Officer B fired his pistol from behind, hitting Morehu in the back. Morehu died at the scene. His gun was found wedged beneath his motorbike – about 4 metres from where he was shot.
The report found Officer B ‘‘lacked sound reasoning’’ and ‘‘put his colleagues at significant risk of harm’’. Whether Officer B faced disciplinary action is not known. As of 2016 he was still with the police.
Diane Richardson is the mother of Morehu’s partner, Kaly Gilbert, and has the care of their children, aged 10 and 12. ‘‘Adam was unarmed at the time . . . so, it didn’t need to happen..’’
She opposes suppression for police officers who she describes as ‘‘the biggest gang in New Zealand’’. She doesn’t know the identity of Officer B. ‘‘I don’t know whether he should have lost his job but he shouldn’t be anywhere near guns again.’’
Her family don’t have the money to pay lawyers to take their fight to the courts. ‘‘The kids have had to learn to not live with their father.’’
In 2000, Raewyn Wallace’s son was shot dead on the main street of Waitara by Constable Keith Abbott – an officer who’d shot at another man in a robbery nine years earlier.
The baseball bat-wielding Steven Wallace, 23, had been smashing shop windows and attacked a police patrol car.
Abbott was acquitted by a jury. What the public did not hear was that Abbott had suffered anxiety attacks after a ‘‘wild and uncontrolled’’ bank shoot-out in 1991 – and had declared he would shoot to kill if caught in the same situation again.
The family are now taking a second legal case against the police, Raewyn Wallace says. ‘‘I can’t run half a race. I need to go to the end.’’
Police Association president Chris Cahill says Abbott has had to leave his community. ‘‘It has had a massive effect on him … It has stayed with him for a very long time.’’
When an officer kills someone, it is a ‘‘life-changing moment’’. It is not uncommon for officers to fear retribution and that their children will be bullied at school.
Cahill says anniversaries of the shootings are particularly difficult for the officers involved.
For Officer 84, and of course Ivoni Fuimaono, that day will come in 10 days time: January 23 is the 10th anniversary of Halatau Naitoko’s death.
‘‘The kids have had to learn to not live with their father’’ Adam Morehu had dropped his gun when he was shot in the back
Halatau Naitoko died 10 years ago this month. His mother Ivoni Fuimaono would just like to sit down with Officer 84 for a coffee and to talk.