By Adam Ray
The family of a teenage boy stabbed in the face says he was attacked after gang members mistook his blue cap as a sign of his gang links.
The assault on 16-year-old Manutahi Edwards in Whanganui on Wednesday was so violent it left bone fragments in his brain.
And while some of his family are gang members, they say Manutahi is a gentle boy who doesn’t belong to any gang.
When he went to help his brother in a street fight in Whanganui, he had a blue cap on. Witnesses say Mongrel Mob members took it as proof he was Black Power.
“He's been stabbed in the face with a screwdriver, [which has] gone through his cheekbone and pushed a bit of bone into his brain,” says father Len Kahui.
A man who came to help Manutahi says he's still traumatised by the sight of Manutahi's injuries.
“I find it hard to sleep,” he says. “All I can see is blood coming down his face.”
Mr Kahui is himself a Black Power member and two of his other sons are members of the Tribesmen. But he says Manutahi is not associated with any gang.
“Anyone who knows him, he's a gentle giant – a big 16-year-old, but he's just a kid growing up,” says Mr Kahui.
Police say the attack was gang-related. And witnesses have told Manutahi's family his attackers wore Mongrel Mob colours.
“A lot of these young fellows don't realise they're not just affecting him, they're affecting the family – everyone around us,” says Mr Kahui.
Wanganui has a history of gang-related violence, and the partner of Manutahi's brother told 3 News she's even scared walking children to school.
“It's a bit of a problem all these gang colours,” she says. “It has to stop.”
Wanganui District Council has tried and failed to ban gang patches in public. Former mayor Michael Laws says displays of gang insignia only increase tension.
“All of this behaviour is related to the strutting of gang insignia,” says Mr Laws.
But Mr Kahui doesn't want revenge or retaliation. He says the only response should come from the police.
“I come from Kaingaroa Forest where the Mongrel Mob killed a young fellow called Kaine Lewis, all over colours,” says Mr Kahui. “To me it’s bullshit.”
Manutahi was only in Wanganui because the family's rented home in Auckland is being sold.
“Next thing I know the house is being sold underneath me, so I had nowhere to put my kids,” says Mr Kahui.
Wellington Hospital says Manutahi is now in a serious but stable condition. His father says he is a strong boy and he's hopeful that he will recover.