Police have arrested a man in connection with the assault of a four-year-old boy who was poked in the chest and told to remove his shirt because it was the wrong colour.
The 21-year-old has been remanded in custody and will appear in the Whakatane District Court tomorrow. Inspector Greg Sparrow said he was “pleased” by the arrest, and thanked the public for their support.
The boy was playing in Whakatane’s Cutler Crescent reserve on Thursday afternoon when a man, thought to be in his mid 20s to early 30s, approached the child while his father’s back was turned, poked him in the chest and shouted at him to remove the shirt, Eastern Bay of Plenty acting area commander Inspector Greg Sparrow said.
The man, who was wearing blue bandannas around his wrists and neck, then physically removed the shirt from the boy before his father could intervene. Whakatane is known as the territory of the Black Power gang, which is associated with blue-coloured clothing. Black Power’s main rival gang, the Mongrel Mob, is associated with red-coloured clothing.
“Regardless of whether the offender has formal gang connections or not, we do not believe that we have an escalating problem in our community,” Mr Sparrow said earlier this week. Mr Sparrow said police were very aware of the intimidating nature of groups of youths or gang patches in public places, particularly in town centres and central business districts.
There have been a number of gang colours-related assaults in the Bay of Plenty recently. In November last year a teenager was assaulted by a group in the carpark of the Whakatane Pak’N Save because he was wearing a red T-shirt. In January last year Murupara 16-year-old Jordan Herewini was run down and killed outside his home by a vehicle stolen from a family member.
Mongrel Mob members from Kawerau were charged with his murder. At the time of the slaying, the boy was wearing a yellow shirt – a colour associated with the rival Tribesmen.