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Whakatāne gang funeral: Police make 15 arrests, seize guns, knuckle duster, axe, machetes

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Police have arrested 15 people and seized a variety of weapons including a knuckle duster and rifles during their monitoring of a gang funeral in Whakatāne today.

Tuterangi Moeke, 27, died following an alleged “gang-related disorder” in Whakatāne last weekend and police yesterday said they have been working with gangs and iwi ahead of today’s funeral.

Of those arrested, Eastern Bay of Plenty area commander inspector Nicky Cooney said 14 are either associated with or are patched members of gangs.

“Some of the arrests made were executed using the Search and Surveillance Act through gang conflict warrants,” Cooney said.

Among the seizures were a cut down Ruger semi-automatic .22 rifle, a cut down Rossi semi-automatic .22 rifle, a knuckle duster, two machetes, an axe, and a variety of knives and ammunition.

“Three people were arrested on warrants to arrest after previously failing to appear in court. Four people have been arrested for unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition,” Cooney said.

Other charges include breaching of release conditions, failing to stop for police, possession of drugs, dangerous driving and driving while disqualified.

“Police also seized six motorcycles. The police Eagle helicopter is in Whakatāne to assist police on the ground. Police acknowledge those wanting to pay their respects at the tangi, however, unlawful activity will not be tolerated, and will not hesitate to hold those people to account.”

Cooney said there would continue to be a police presence in the area into tomorrow, and they will be following up any incidents of unlawful behaviour after the fact.

Police have also blocked off exits at a roundabout on Hinemoa St, Bridge St, Awatapu Rd and Arawa Rd and are conducting breath tests.

Moeke was last Sunday brought to hospital with life-threatening injuries about 9.40pm and pronounced dead soon afterward.

A homicide investigation has been launched.

Police said they were “engaging with local iwi and key gang spokespersons to ensure that the tangi does not interfere with the community living in the area”.

“Police expect those involved to behave respectfully, follow road rules and behave lawfully before, during and after the event,” a statement said.

“Staff will be maintaining a visible presence and will respond to any incidents as required.”

Social media footage emerged earlier this week of a procession of vehicles and mourners as they drove Moeke’s body back to Whakatāne.

The video shows people, some wearing gang patches, sitting on the front, sides and back of a vehicle as it drives through a street followed by a long line of vehicles and people walking.

In the statement, police said they “were aware that a group of motorists supported the family of Tuterangi Moeke on Tuesday as they drove the deceased back to Whakatāne”.

Tangi for Mongrel Mob Barbarians president Stephen Rota Taiatini causes traffic chaos in Ōhope and Whakatāne. Photos / Andrew Warner
Tangi for Mongrel Mob Barbarians president Stephen Rota Taiatini causes traffic chaos in Ōhope and Whakatāne. Photos / Andrew Warner

“Local staff maintained a presence in the area and there were no significant issues.”

Police could also face political pressure in how they choose to handle the funeral.

The new National-led coalition Government has promised to crack down on gangs by passing a range of new laws within the first 100 days of taking office.

After June’s Mongrel Mob funeral caused widespread disruption in Ōpōtiki and Whakatāne, questions were asked of Bay of Plenty District Police Commander Tim Anderson.

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