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“What could we have done?” Shooting in New Zealand claims Samoan lives

Efeso Collins
Pacific community in Auckland grieves victims
(Source: RNZ Pacific)

Auckland, NEW ZEALAND — The Pacific Island community in Auckland is grieving the deaths of two men killed at a downtown construction site last week.

Solomona To'oto'o, 45, of Manurewa and Tupuga Sipiliano, 44, of Wattle Downs were identified over the weekend as the victims of 24-year-old gunman Matu Reid, who also died.

Several others were injured, including a police officer.

The Samoa Observer reports friends and relatives of the two victims took to social media to express their condolences, and relatives of Sipiliago sent messages to the victim's wife and children as they mourned.

The Samoa Police, Prison and Correction Services have extended their sympathies to the New Zealand Police, saying their thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected, along with their solidarity with the NZ Police.

Former Auckland city councilor and Pacific islands advocate Efeso Collins told RNZ's Morning Report the community is rallying around the families.

Collins said people he goes to church with were social workers and youth workers and are questioning what could have been done.

"Some questioning became what else could we have done?" he said.

"How can we continue to support these communities and even the young man who undertook the shootings as well… I guess the holes in the community or in the system that we need to assist and fix and help to facilitate."

He said some people were "really angry" while some were questioning how else to support young people going through these things.

Collins said people were asking how to address issues like poverty, isolation and young people who have fallen out of the school system.

He said he had talked to social and youth workers in churches.

"Because even as young dads we are wondering what it is to get people to talk, to invite people to feel like they re connected to a community, because it is that connection that really is going to offer people support.

"We experience tragedy and triumphs as a village and the village wants to work out what else can be done to support."


A Tongan construction worker Uate Vea was one of those in the building at the time of the tragic event.

RNZ Pacific correspondent Kalafi Moala said Vea said they were at level 21 of the building where the shooting was taking place, about six levels away from the gunman, when they were instructed to leave.

"We ran down to level 15 before we were told to return to level 16 because the shooter was heading our way," he said.

And while they moved to level 16, he heard more gunshots.

Vea said he was thankful that the NZ Police were quick to send the chopper which helped save them, Moala said.

He said there were eight Tongans altogether in his team and he understood there were more Tongans working at the site.