Two patched Head Hunters members and a former prospect of the motorcycle gang who helped orchestrate a shooting in the lobby of a luxury Auckland hotel have been sentenced to prison.
Hone Reihana, Tyran Panapa and a gang member who continues to have name suppression, stood side-by-side before Justice Simon Moore today in the High Court at Auckland as their sentences were handed down.
“I’m satisfied that a plan was hatched to exact revenge,” the judge told the group.
“This was a highly planned and coordinated enterprise.”
The trio was initially among six men accused of participating in the high-profile gang warfare on a busy weekday morning in April 2021, amid escalating tension with rival gangs the Mongols and Comancheros.
Reihana pleaded guilty just days before the group’s trial began last November to discharging a firearm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Three other co-defendants - patched members Marcus Nielson and Fred Tanuvasa, as well as gang associate Paraire Paikea - were found not guilty by the jury following seven hours of deliberations.
Reihana admitted he was the gunman at the Sofitel Hotel in central Auckland’s Viaduct district, targeting a former Head Hunters member who had defected to rival gang the Mongols. It followed a week of escalating violence between the gangs that had included a “firebombing” of a Mongols-aligned business and multiple drive-by shootings at gang-associated addresses.
No one was injured in the Sofitel shooting, but the rival gang member and a hotel employee dived out of the way as one of the bullets hit the wall next to them. The highly public nature and unusual location of the gang violence elicited nationwide headlines, political commentary and a large police response.
All but one of the six co-defendants were seen on CCTV footage in or outside the five-star hotel on the morning of the shooting. The one who wasn’t, Tanuvasa, had inquired about a reservation at the hotel the night before, lying to the receptionist about coming from the airport.
To find the men guilty, jurors had to believe that they had worked towards a common intention and were either aware or should have known that it was likely to end in a shooting. Lawyers for each of the five men who opted for a trial ardently denied that they had any knowledge beforehand that a shooting was about to take place.
Prosecutor Robin McCoubrey told jurors during his closing address in November that it was hard to swallow the idea that the “utterly bizarre” one-night stay at the $429 per night hotel just happened to coincide with a stay by a turncoat Mongols member.
“They’re not there to have a facial in the spa,” McCoubrey said. “They’re not there to have cucumber sandwiches at high tea. They’re there to do a job.”
During today’s hearing, Justice Moore said he agreed.
“I’ve seen that [CCTV] video played and re-played,” Justice Moore said. “I just cannot accept this was a chance encounter. It flies in the face of the evidence I saw and heard.”
Reihana, the gunman, was handed the longest sentence: three years and 10 months’ imprisonment. He was given credit for pleading guilty prior to trial and for his deprived upbringing. One of 14 children, his parents were both drug addicts and his father spent nearly half of his life in prison, the judge pointed out, adding that Reihana was exposed to methamphetamine and violence at a young age and had little formal education.
The man with name suppression was next sentenced to three years and five months’ imprisonment, with the judge noting his lesser role in the shooting and his similarly difficult upbringing. His mother was closely linked to Black Power and his father was a member of the Head Hunters, the judge noted, adding that the man left school at age 13 “and instead received an education in violence”.
Panapa, meanwhile, was sentenced to three years and six months’ imprisonment for the same charge. He was also sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for possession of over a kilogram of cannabis for sale and 18 months for multiple firearms, ammunition and magazine charges resulting from a search warrant at his home a month after the shooting.
But the sentences will be served concurrently, Moore said, noting that as a prospect for the gang he was “somewhat of a fall guy”. Moore also noted the defendant’s assertion that he would like to distance himself from the gang.
“I have been impressed by what I read about you,” Moore said. “You have made mistakes and the law requires you to pay for these violations. But do not let this sentence crush you.”
All three men waved to family members in the courtroom gallery as they were led out to begin serving the sentences.