A gang member with a violent past who was shot dead outside a South Auckland church yesterday was attending an event for people moving away from their lives of crime.
Notorious Mongrel Mob member Daniel Eliu was just another person in need of hope and healing said leader of the Grace Foundation David Letele Snr, who witnessed the killing.
It happened after a graduation for people taking part in a programme to better themselves, as guests waited outside the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Puhinui Road, Manukau yesterday morning for a meal to be served.
“It’s a graduation for both our men and women of the Grace Foundation,” Letele said.
“We’re there every Saturday early morning, just for an hour at that particular address.”
Eliu, who had been in the programme about six months, was not graduating himself. Letele had known him for years, however.
Everyone was standing around waiting for a Christmas meal to be served when the shooting happened, Letele said.
“We weren’t too sure what had actually happened, just heard the sounds. It didn’t quite sound like a firearm, it sounded quite quiet.
“We just noticed the victim sort of stumbling and then a guy running away from the area. Then we realised that something had happened to him so we quickly laid him down and ascertained what it was that had happened, then we realised that he’d been shot.”
The group applied CPR until the ambulance arrived.
“It was kind of over by then.”
Eliu had an extensive criminal past and also had links to the Head Hunters.
He was once involved in a horrific kidnapping of a suspected “nark”, for which he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for wounding to cause grievous bodily harm.
In the 2006 offending, Eliu had held down a man who had “narked” on an associate of his, who then attacked the victim with a Stanley knife. The victim in the attack had his face slashed from his jaw to hairline.
According to the 2008 Court of Appeal judgment text, Eliu’s victim suffered significant wounds to his chest, arm and face, with the latter serving as a continual reminder to the victim of what had happened.
“You, Mr Eliu, clearly intended to kidnap the victim for revenge to be exacted upon him and you softened him up for that revenge to take place,” the judgement said.
But Letele said Eliu was “like many others that come to us”.
“Just in need of some hope and some healing, and you know, just to get on a journey that’s more positive.”
Letele said he felt “numb” after the incident.
“It’s not something you want to experience . . . it was just out the gate stuff, it was just unreal.”
Letele, a former Mongrel Mob member himself, founded the Grace Foundation with his wife Tui. It is a charity seeking to empower and assist marginalised members of the community.
About 4.30pm yesterday, police said the gunman had not yet been caught.
“This appears be an isolated incident, as the victim was deliberately targeted,” Detective Inspector Tofilau Faamanuia Va’aelua said.
“The first officers on the scene administered urgent first aid but sadly the person died. Police are following positive lines of enquiry to locate the offender, and the people who were present at the church are assisting police with enquiries.”
Va’aelua said police are also collecting CCTV footage from the church and it is “proving to be very helpful”.