WANGANUI - A toddler was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in Wanganui last night.
The shooting was believed to be gang-related - the latest flashpoint in the Manawatu town which has seen rising tensions between rival gangs.
"That was my grand-daughter," a grief-stricken man told the Herald on Sunday late last night.
Police officers said that the child, aged 2, believed to be a girl, was with her parents and several other people at a home on Puriri St known to be connected to the Black Power gang.
At about 9.45pm, shots were fired from a vehicle travelling along Puriri St.
An eyewitness, told the Herald on Sunday he heard four shots followed by the sound of a woman screaming.
The toddler's grandmother called for help, as neighbours reported the shots to police. When police arrived, they found the toddler dead.
Police said they were told by the occupants of the house that they believed the shooting was retaliation by the Mongrel Mob.
Stephen Daly, 14, was at his home around the corner from the house when he heard shots fired at 9.45pm.
"There were about four shots," he told the Herald on Sunday last night. "Then there was a woman screaming. I heard it was a baby girl (who was hurt)."
Daly said he ran out on to the street where several neighbours had gathered amid the chaos.
"I knew it was gunshots," he said of the noise. "It took a fair while for the cops to arrive."
He said at 11pm last night the street was still cordoned off with a large police presence.
An eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said the street was "loaded with gangs".
"I was in bed. I heard six gunshots. There was a guy yelling to police on the doorstep. He was calling out 'there's a baby dying in here'."
As the man yelled out for help, he was trying to keep intruders out of his home. The eyewitness said it was the second gunshot incident on the street in the past year.
One neighbour said the family involved were "not from Wanganui - all our problems come from external."
About a dozen people were gathered inside and outside police cordons, two hours after the shooting.
Wanganui MP Chester Borrows was stunned to hear of the shooting from the Herald on Sunday. "It's hard to put into words. I'm just horrified to think there has been another gang shooting. It's just horrible to think a two-year-old can be killed in that way."
Borrows said gang tension had been increasing in Wanganui in the past few years although it was hard to understand why. There had been a string of shooting incidents, including drive by shootings and even shots at police cars.
"What I expect is for the police to come down in numbers.
"They will sit on these guys and make sure they deal to the perpetrators of this crime and associated gangs.
"People need to remember that gangs are criminals."