A community-minded contractor who dug the mass grave for victims of the mosque shootings for free says police went “way over the top” in raiding his house to seize his 11 firearms.
The colourful figure – who asked not to be named for security reasons but whose record of helping out people in the community and raising money is known to have endeared him to many – said about 30 police raided his west Christchurch block on April 2 about 5pm while he was still at work.
Some were Armed Offenders Squad members and others were in ordinary police uniform. A specialist search squad searched his house, outbuildings and a granny flat housing his 80-year-old mother.
“They even went through her underwear drawer. The worst thing was they pointed a rifle at my 12-year-old daughter who was picking up horse poo. They told her to put the fork down and walk towards them. She is still anxious and shaken. The whole family is.”
Police then rang him at work. He arranged to stand in the middle of the yard and asked the police to leave their guns in their vehicles.
“They still pointed their guns at me and made me walk towards them with my hands up. I got to them and said, “put that away before you hurt yourself”.”
He is now waiting for an explanation. He does not believe police were acting on a tip that he was dangerous. Police refused to comment, citing privacy – despite the man providing a privacy waiver.
“Unfortunately for privacy reasons we can’t respond to requests which seek to confirm whether specific individuals have made complaints to police, or if police have attended a specific address,” a police spokesperson said.
The man said: “I’ve seen them raid the Headhunters with less firepower than they raided us. It was just out of this world. Way over the top.”
He accepts police might have wanted a chat with him because after the mosque shootings, he had bought an AR15 rifle, from Gun City. The mosque shooter used an AR15 class rifle and they are now banned under new arms legislation.
A rush of gun sales was reported in the aftermath of the March 15 mosque shooting after it was announced gun laws would change. The AR15 is amongst the most popular as a semi-automatic sporting rifle often used for deer, goat and pig hunting, as well as competitive target shooting.
“But all they needed to do was ring me and say we are coming around for a chat. If I was really up to no good I would have bought a firearm off the internet. Everyone knows that.”
The contractor said he had had a firearms licence since 1982 and had been shooting as a sport since he was 12.
He collected firearms and had two other AR15 rifles before the shooting.
When he bought the firearm, he thought he would be able to keep the gun under a grandfather arrangement where those who owned the guns before the law change would be allowed to keep them.
“It would have told a story.”
His confidence in the police had gone down to about zero, he said.
All his guns were confiscated in the raid and he is now trying to get them back.
“This didn’t need to happen. I’m not a criminal. They could have made a few other checks and seen I was not a risk.
He had two assault convictions from 35 years ago and had been out of trouble since, he said.
An Ashburton farm manager, who also declined to be named, told Stuff he was also angry about the way he was treated by the police.
He was in his garage searching through his deep freezer shortly after eating lunch on Thursday when his wife told him there were some police officers coming up the drive.
“There were about three armed police that came out from the back of my section, and three more units pulled up at the driveway.”
Of the 14 police officers, eight were “heavily armed”.
The officers wanted to speak to him about the terror attacks, his views on police, Muslims and other religions. He was then asked if anyone was home.
“I said ‘no, my kids are at school’. Then they sent a team in to clear the house like in the movies, going into each room guns pointed clearing the house.”
The man said the officers told him the hour-long visit was initiated in part because he purchased an A-category AR15 from Gun City a day after the March 15 terror attack. His gun, which was being held in a secure safe, was seized, along with some other items including a scope and ammunition.
He told Stuff he travelled from Ashburton to Christchurch after the attack to buy the gun because he had always wanted one. His wife was planning on buying him one for his birthday in June, and was worried they would become harder to buy.
“It was probably the wrong decision but I thought if I don’t get one now I may miss the opportunity.”
He said he was not racist or anti-Islamic.
“I said so I’m not a fan but I understand there are good people out there, there are good Muslims. I’m not a fan of the religion but I’m not going to go out and kill people.”
He said the number of police officers was over the top and believed a call or visit from a local police officer would have been enough.
“I can’t understand why they needed that many armed police to come in here to ask me my views on this and then seize my gun.”