Rotorua gang shooting: Judge scolds driver in Westend traffic light incident for chewing gum

A Black Power associate shot at vehicles containing Mongrel Mob members outside Westend stores in Rotorua in September last year. Photos / NZME

A driver involved in a shooting with rival gang members in broad daylight at a busy Rotorua intersection was offered some strong advice when he appeared before a judge in the Rotorua District Court.

Judge John McDonald told Himiona Buffett, 20, not to “stand in the dock chewing gum.”

Buffett was due to be sentenced in the Rotorua District Court after pleading guilty to charges of discharging a firearm to intimidate and unlawfully carrying or possessing a firearm.

A police summary, delivered to the Rotorua Daily Post on Friday, said the shopping center on the corner of Malfroy and Old Taupō streets was busy with pedestrians and traffic at the time of the incident, around 12:30 p.m. on September 19 last year.

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Buffett was driving a Ford vehicle and had a teenage passenger, whose name has been redacted and also pleaded guilty to the same charges. In the summary they are described as “close collaborators of Black Power.”

Two vehicles with Mongrel Mob members inside were stopped on Malfroy Rd at the traffic lights waiting to turn right onto Old Taupō Rd.

The Ford approached the intersection and stopped behind one of the trucks and immediately reversed about 10 meters, according to the summary.

The teenage passenger disguised himself by putting a hood over his head and a scarf over his face, leaned out the window and pulled out a gun and fired five shots.

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Both drivers headed onto Old Taupō Rd with the Ford vehicle in pursuit. One of the vans reversed onto Malfroy Rd and intentionally collided with the Ford, causing it to spin out of control and stop facing west on Malfroy Rd.

The drivers of the three vehicles then fled.

One of the bullets shattered the rear window of a van carrying Mongrel Mob members, according to the summary.

Another bullet went through the open window of the car of a citizen who was waiting at the traffic light. The bullet lodged in the interior lining of the vehicle.

Nobody was hurt.

Buffett’s attorney, Andy Hill, asked that his client’s sentencing be postponed until September to ensure he could be sentenced along with his co-offender.

Judge McDonald asked if it was so that each could blame the other.

Hill said the roles they played were clear and there was no dispute.

Judge McDonald said he had collected the list from Judge Maree Mackenzie today because she was unwell and he had spent the last hour reading the material.

“And then he (Buffett) just decides ‘no, I don’t want to do it’?” Judge McDonald told Hill.

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Hill responded that Buffett did not know Judge Mackenzie would not be there and usually co-offenders were sentenced together. A police prosecutor agreed with Hill.

When Hill referred to the co-offender as the “principal” offender and Buffett as a “party” to the crime, Judge McDonald disagreed.

“He is not a match. It was a bit of luck that he decided to drive that day instead of the other guy.”

Judge McDonald said he accepted the postponement with “the greatest of reluctance” but noted that there should be no variations in Buffett’s bail between now and September 6 that would allow him to “wander around the country.”

The judge was concerned that the next date would be in September.

“It’s been almost a year since these two fired a weapon, a pistol, in the middle of the afternoon in Rotorua.

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“You can tell from what I’m saying that I take this offense very seriously. “It’s probably in your best interest to get a reprieve.”

When Buffett left the bench, Judge McDonald said, “You’d probably better not stand on the bench chewing gum the next time you come back.”

kelly makiha is an experienced journalist who has reported for the Rotorua Daily Post for more than 25 years, primarily covering policing, justice, human interest and social issues.

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