A Cabinet Minister related to a former Auckland Grammar student charged with first-degree murder in the United States is describing the situation as "sad and difficult".
New Zealander Clinton Thinn, 29, is being held at the George Bailey Detention Facility in San Diego, California, says the San Diego Sheriff's Department website.
He is charged with attempted robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, carrying a loaded firearm and first-degree murder.
If convicted, Thinn faces a minimum of 25 years in prison or the death penalty.
Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye, who returned to Parliament last month after a cancer scare, today said family members were distressed by the bleak developments.
Kaye's mother has been in a long-term relationship with Thinn's father.
"This is a difficult and sad time for all those affected by what has happened.
"As this is before the courts I will not be commenting further," Kaye said.
His bail has been set at US$2 million ($2.74m).
The murder charge was laid after an incident at the maximum security facility housing nearly 1800 prisoners.
A friend said Thinn had been picked on because of his accent and had pledged allegiance to the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang in the US.
If convicted, Thinn faces a minimum of 25 years in prison, or the death penalty.
The Aucklander was arrested in San Diego, last June after a man entered a Chula Vista bank brandishing a hammer and a flare gun.
The man reportedly fired two shots with the flare gun and used the hammer to try to smash a bullet-proof partition.
News reports at the time said no one was injured.
A friend of Thinn's told the Herald they had met at Auckland's Selwyn College, after Thinn left Auckland Grammar School.
He considered himself a close friend and would be trying to contact Thinn in prison to offer support.
The old schoolmate, who asked not to be named, said Thinn had gone through some personal issues over the years and had been failed by those around them.
"He should have never left the country."
Thinn's mother died a number of years ago and he inherited a large amount of money, the friend said.
He bought an inner-city apartment on Lorne St. He also owned a Mercedes at the time.
The two-bedroom apartment was featured in Herald Homes in June 2011.
In an interview, the then-accounting student said he wanted to make his home a unique and hip place to live.
"I decided to make some alterations and put a fish tank in the wall to make the apartment feel alive as opposed to a sterile hotel environment.
"When I am studying, I like to hear water in the background. It's calming.''
Thinn, a lover of hip-hop and rap, often posted videos of himself rapping to lyrics he had written under the rap artist name: BigMac and Richochet Rocket.
Thinn's old friend said he felt guilty about his mate's current situation.
"These videos that he's doing ... he was led on by a lot of his friends that he was a good rapper.
"When really, people were just leading him on, it was just funny for us to watch.
"That was his motive to go to the US.''
The friend acknowledged Thinn could have had more support in America and did not need to rob a bank.
"He's got money. He comes from a family of money.
"He wasn't a proud friend to have around, but he was a dear friend."
Another mate said he was concerned for the former Aucklander, who had moved to the US to further his rap career.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said Thinn was receiving consular advice.
A former schoolmate, who wished to remain anonymous, said Thinn's behaviour was sometimes "pretty crazy".
"He's a bit of an odd character," he told the Herald.
The friend said Thinn was an aspiring rapper who posted videos of himself performing online.
"All of a sudden he just went MIA [missing in action] then next minute he's posting up photos in California."
Another associate said Thinn had just broken up with his girlfriend before travelling to the US. "