Armed police stop vehicle after bystander sees 'gun' on board

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

An incident in Gisborne involving heavily armed police officers and a family has raised concerns about racial profiling. 

The incident took place near a public park, where some families were present having a picnic, and a number of children were playing. 

Inspector Sam Aberahama said police received a 111 call from a concerned member of the public about a person in a vehicle holding what appeared to be a firearm.

The caller, who was walking past the vehicle, described the occupant as being a male in his 20s, wearing a black balaclava and holding what looked like a black pistol. 

Police set up two checkpoints, and then followed the vehicle before stopping it near a public park. 

Using a megaphone, the armed police instructed the occupants of the vehicle to exit and walk backward with their hands in the air, before taking them into custody. 

The police were seen conducting a search of the vehicle.

The inspector said a BB gun that closely resembled a Glock pistol was found during the search and one of the men in the vehicle was wearing a face covering. The occupants of the vehicle were immediately released.  

The witness said the occupants appeared to be Māori, and that in their view it was racial profiling by the Police. 

Inspector Aberahama says that 52% of Police staff in Te Tairāwhiti are Māori, and this event followed standard operating procedure.

'Absolutely appropriate' 

"This was routine policing and an absolutely appropriate response,"  Aberahama said.

Police had to take any report of a person carrying a firearm in a public place extremely seriously, he said.

"We strongly encourage members of the public to continue to report anything suspicious and we will respond appropriately."