Gang ‘wannabe’ arrested over attack on 4-year-old in red shirt

Whakatane police have arrested the “wannabe” gang member who allegedly roughed up a 4-year-old boy because he was wearing a colour associated with a rival gang.

Acting area commander Greg Sparrow said police apprehended the 21-year-old yesterday afternoon and charged him with assault. He was remanded in custody and will appear in the Whakatane District Court today. “We are happy to have made an arrest for what is a serious charge … and thank the community for their help in tracking him down,” said Mr Sparrow.

Last week, a man attacked the preschooler who was playing with his father and sister in Cutler Cres Reserve.  Senior Sergeant Bruce Jenkins said while the father’s back was turned, the assailant yelled at the boy to remove his red shirt, then prodded him and tore it off his back.

Red is associated with the Mongrel Mob, a rival gang to Black Power, who wear blue and consider Whakatane their home. The incident was condemned by police, Whakatane residents and Black Power themselves, who said assaulting a child was a violation of their code.

Police initially said the accused was a Black Power member. Mr Sparrow said he was more likely to be a “wannabe” gang member.  Yesterday, police arrested a Black Power gang member who allegedly harassed staff at the Whakatane Beacon newspaper earlier in the day.  Three gang members angry over coverage of the attack on the 4-year-old yelled at staff and damaged the office.

A 24-year-old man has been charged with disorderly behaviour and intentional damage. Two other men are still being sought.

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