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Eight arrested after murder of Mongrel Mob member in Whanganui

Report from RNZ
Eight people have been charged in relation to the killing of Mongrel Mob member Kevin Ratana in Whanganui last week.

Police say they found firearms and ammunition when they executed search warrants yesterday. They say those arrested are facing various charges, including threatening to kill, unlawful possession of ammunition and participation in an organised crime group.

Police are continuing a homicide investigation and say they expect to lay further charges.

Hundreds of Mongrel Mob members attended the tangi for the 27-year-old yesterday at Parikino Marae on Whanganui River Road.

An increased number of armed police and the Eagle helicopter would be in the area again today, police said.

Whanganui acting mayor Jenny Duncan told Morning Report the heavy police presence was reassuring to residents. “We would rather the police weren’t here, but given that we’ve had the event, we’re very pleased the police are here in such strong numbers.”

Ms Duncan said a gang meeting was taking place today, which was was a positive sign they also wanted a good outcome. “If they’re meeting today that means [they] have an intention of wanting to keep the peace themselves, which is very reassuring, so we don’t expect this to go on too much longer.” In the meantime, she encouraged residents to go about their business as normal.

Black Power gang representative Denis O’Reilly said collaborative talks between gangs was ongoing.

Report from RNZ – August 27
Police are sending their Eagle helicopter to Whanganui today for the tangi of a man killed in a gang-related shooting last week. Inspector Nigel Allan said police were increasing their presence in the city because they expected a large number of gang members to be at the tangi.

There would be additional patrols and the Eagle helicopter would be circling today and tomorrow.

Mr Allan said he wanted the public to feel reassured, not alarmed, by the increased police presence.

Kevin Ratana, 27, was shot dead outside a Castlecliff home on Tuesday last week. Investigators are still trying to find those responsible.

News from NZ Police – August 23
The investigation into the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old man in Whanganui has continued today. A scene examination has been completed, although Puriri Street residents can expect to see a continued Police presence in area in the coming days. A post mortem has also been completed and the victim has been returned to his whānau.

The investigation is well-staffed, with extra officers arriving in Whanganui today and tomorrow to assist.

Senior gang leaders are working collaboratively with Police and we appreciate the assistance they are providing as we work to identify the person/s responsible for this young man’s death.

Report from RNZ – August 22
A large police manhunt is underway in Whanganui after a gang-related shooting left a man dead. RNZ understands the victim, Kevin Ratana, 27, died at a property on Puriri Street in the suburb of Castlecliff at about 9.30am yesterday. Police have yet to release his name. Witnesses said the offenders fled on foot, and police have called in extra support from around the country as the hunt for them continues.

Dozens of patched Mongrel Mob members congregated at a church at the edge of the cordon today.

What people saw

Kyle lives across the road and was home when the shooting happened.

“Yeah, I seen it. I was just painting a picture. I heard the first shot, I looked out the window seen a few guys running across the road, so I went and grabbed my nephew and then I heard a couple more shots, so I took him into the hallway. And then I looked out the window and they were gone. Then about two minutes later this lady started screaming for the ambulance,” he said.

Kyle said he made sure his nephew was okay, before he looked out the window again.

“I was pretty sure I saw a broken window at the house and one guy got shot in the head on his front lawn, I’m pretty sure,” he said.

Nearby schools and early childcare centres were placed into lockdown for the day.

A large section on the corner of Puriri Street was blocked off and armed officers have been guarding it since. Locals report having armed police combing their properties for hours last night.

Just up the road at the local dairy Sumaya San-a, said it had been frightening.

“Yeah it is pretty scary, but the cops were here yesterday and all the ones with the armour guard and everything like that. There’s the cops going past. People when they come to the shop they tell us what’s going on. What I’ve heard so far is, the guy who was shot, his wife was with him as well. So it was pretty sad because she was just sitting there crying when he just got shot,” she said.

Police have yet to identify the victim, but friends and family have named him as Kevin Ratana on social media. His body was removed at around midday today.

Police have launched an extensive hunt for the offenders – bringing in officers from New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington. They said the victim and offenders were gang affiliates, who were known to each other, and the police.

Garry Battesby, manager of liquor store on the street, had his own theories about the shooting.

“Probably Mongrel Mob have come into Black Power territory, as far as I can tell.”

He said the shooting had shaken the community and business had been slow since it happened.

It’s not the first time something like this has rocked the community; just over 10 years ago a 2 year-old was shot in a drive-by just houses down.

Whanganui’s acting mayor Jenny Duncan said the community was traumatised, but the public was not at risk.

“Our main reaction was our thoughts were with the family affected and that community and wanting to make sure that they’re fully supported through this time,” she said. “Look this is a one-off event, it was very unexpected. We are vibrant, small city, that doesn’t have a gang problem anymore than anywhere else.”

“We just want to assure them that the police know what they are doing, they’ve got a strong presence here and the matter under control,” she said.

News from NZ Police – August 21
Police have commenced a homicide investigation in Whanganui after a man was shot and killed in Puriri Street, Castlecliff this morning.

Additional staff have been deployed to Whanganui to assist.

The offenders remain outstanding, however we believe those involved were known to each other and are known to Police.

As inquiries are ongoing, and in response to this shooting, the Whanganui community will notice an increased Police presence. There is no immediate cause for concern to the general public.

UPDATE from NZ Police
Police want to reassure the Whanganui community that we are doing everything we can to find the people responsible for the fatal shooting of a man in Puriri Street, Castlecliff this morning.

This was not a random attack. The victim, a 27-year-old man, and the offenders are known to each other and are known to Police.

We believe the parties involved have links or associations to gangs, but we are in the early stages of the investigation and are unable to comment further on this at this stage.

As this conflict is between two parties known to each other, we do not believe there is associated risk to members of the general public.

We want the Whanganui community to feel comfortable that there is a strong Police presence in the area working hard to investigate this crime.

Extra officers have been brought in from Manawatu and Taranaki to assist and for that reason people will notice an increased Police presence across the city.

People shouldn’t be alarmed by this, but reassured. Our staff are appropriately trained and equipped to deal with any situation which may arise.

The investigation team are following strong lines of enquiry to locate the offenders in this homicide.

We are also ensuring the whanau of the victim are supported at this time.

As we continue to investigate this homicide, we ask that anyone who witnesses anything suspicious or out of the ordinary contacts Whanganui Police on 06 349 0600. You can also give information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.