Surgery for teen shot in face

By Carolyne Meng-Yee, Rebecca Lewis

An Auckland teenager shot during an unprovoked attack late on Friday night is today having surgery to remove a pellet from his face.

Matthew Sparrow, 17, who attends St Kentigern College, was shot three times by teenagers "looking for a party".

One pellet struck him in the face, penetrating the flesh and causing heavy bruising, another lodged in his cheek and the third was fired at his chest, although it failed to pass through thick clothing.

Matthew was shot in a park in Remuera's Upland Rd trying to defend his 17-year-old girlfriend Katrina Labb, who was being threatened with a screwdriver by one of two young men who were demanding to know where parties were.

Matthew's father, Simon Sparrow, told the Herald on Sunday: "Parents don't know what's going to happen to your sons and daughters when they go out... who would've thought my son would've ended up being shot.

"We are so lucky. You could've had another headline like last week."

Simon Sparrow was referring to Auckland Grammar schoolboy Augustine Borrell, 17, who was buried at the Mangere Lawn Cemetery yesterday, a week after he died from a stab wound after gatecrashers arrived at a Herne Bay party he was attending.

Diocesan School student Katrina Labb said she, Matthew and seven others were in the park when they were approached by two youths who wanted directions to a party.

"We were just hanging out when two guys in hoodies and blue bandanas walked up and asked where the party was that we had been to," she said. "They didn't have any guns then. We just told them we didn't know of any parties and they went away. They talked in a gangsta way and were really thugged out, but we thought they had left."

Ten minutes later the boys came back, covering half their faces with their bandanas and pointing their guns - and a screwdriver - at the group, demanding they hand over their belongings.

"One of the guys held a gun above my friend Sarah's head and the other guy held a screwdriver above mine," said Labb.

"Matt knew it wasn't a real gun and kept saying he knew [it wasn't], then one of the guys said to Matt, 'Don't be smart with me,' before hitting him." Labb and the others ran to a neighbouring house and called the police, leaving Matthew and a friend behind.

Then the girls heard two shots. Labb said: "Matt was lying on the ground and then they shot him in the face then again in the chest."

Piers Lennox-King, Katrina's dad, said: "It's been a lesson to all of us that we have to be more careful... Our home patch is not the sacrosanct turf that it once was. It's a huge shock."

Simon Sparrow said Matthew's friends had gathered at his bedside as he was being prepared for surgery. They were hoping that once the pellet was removed, he would be able to go home.

"We're not going to lock him up but we maybe have to be more aware about where he's going and who he is going out with. Tell your kids to go somewhere safe - as safe as can be.

"Kids are mobile these days, they all have cars and you can't control where they are going every minute."

He said Matthew was "up and down", but became upset when he focused on what happened. "All he was doing was protecting his girlfriend."

Classmate Adam Caldwell, who hosted the get-together at his house on Ngapuhi Rd before the attack, says Sparrow is "a really happy, decent guy".

"He's just a real close mate who was standing up for his friends. We can definitely all count on him to have at our backs." "You hear about things but it's never happened this close to home before," he says.

His mother, Sarah, said her son and friends were responsible young people who did not go looking for trouble. "Kids have to watch their backs no matter where they go and something like this makes me want to protect them even more."

Upland Rd resident Helen Maguire was shocked the violent attack had happened in Remuera.

"I heard someone shouting and I actually thought it was something on the TV because I don't really expect this sort of thing around here. But when I looked out the window I saw girls crying and yelling to someone on their cellphone."

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