An old soldier found dead in his Kaitaia home died as a result of a drive-by shooting between rival gangs, a fellow Vietnam veteran says.
Ian McLeod, 71, had no physical injuries when he was found face-down on his bedroom floor on Archibald St in the early hours of Friday morning.
His front door and one wall had been peppered with bullets after a drive-by shooting which followed an altercation between two groups on the street outside his house about 4.30am.
Concerned for the welfare of anyone inside, police forced their way into the house when they got no response at the door.
A 26-year-old Kaitaia man, thought to be one of the intended targets, was hit in the thigh as he was standing in Mr McLeod's driveway. He was airlifted to Whangarei Hospital in a serious condition and underwent surgery later that day.
A post-mortem on Mr McLeod found he had suffered no physical injuries, such as bullet wounds, that could have contributed to his death. He was known to have what police called "significant health issues".
However, friend and fellow veteran Selwyn Fraider had no doubt that Mr McLeod died as a result of the shots fired outside his home, which would have brought back vivid memories of his service in Vietnam.
"He had respiratory problems, but I believe it was the shooting that killed him," Mr Fraider said.
Mr McLeod, who had moved to Kaitaia from Whanganui, lived alone.
Meanwhile, police are continuing to investigate the shooting. Word on the street was that it involved members of the Black Power and Tribesmen gangs. Between 10 and 15 people were involved.
Northland criminal investigations manager Detective Inspector Kevin Burke said four more Auckland staff had joined the investigation, boosting the total to 11.
The man shot in the leg remained in a stable condition in Whangarei Hospital and had given police an account of what he said had happened. Police were still looking for the sports rifle used in the shooting.
"There's still a high-calibre weapon in the community with people who are prepared to pull the trigger. We'd like to hear from anyone who knows where it is."
Mr Burke urged anyone with information to call the Kaitaia station on (09) 408 6500 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555-111.
He knew of Mr Fraider's belief that the shooting had led to Mr McLeod's death but said proving it would be "very, very difficult".
Mr McLeod's death has been referred to the coroner, who will make a ruling on the cause.
Mr Burke did not believe there was any connection between Friday's shooting and the last serious gang incident in Kaitaia, the killing of 35-year-old Lee Rata outside a wedding party on Bonnett Rd, just a few hundred metres from Archibald St, on New Year's Eve.
That attack was believed to have been sparked by tensions within Mongrel Mob factions. Three men and a woman, all from Moerewa and have links to the mob, have been charged with murdering Mr Rata and are in custody.