Man’s wrongful arrest over NZ massacre
A Christchurch man says he will seek compensation for wrongful arrest for wearing camouflage clothing yesterday while police were dealing with the mosques massacre.
Stephen Millar, a 30-year-old father of young children, said he was inadvertently caught up in the police operation when he arrived outside Papanui High School intending to pick up his 13-year-old brother-in-law, the NZ Herald reports.
A police officer held a gun to his head and ordered him down on the ground.
"I looked up at the cop and he said, 'Look at me again and I will shoot you'.
"I had no weapons on me."
"They had me on my knees, they had a gun in my face.
"I said, 'I've done nothing wrong. They said I was an idiot for wearing camouflage clothing."
The police have defended their actions, saying the situation immediately after the massacre was rapidly evolving and they had to respond to multiple reports of potentially related events.
Millar said he had been wearing camouflage clothing since he was a child. He always wore it, although he had quit the habit today - temporarily.
He said he was arrested and put in a car.
"They have given me a verbal warning for stupidity and the only thing they could say was [that it was] disorderly behaviour.
"I still don't understand how I was doing disorderly behaviour for wearing the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"They humiliated me publicly."
He said friends and family who had seen published photos of him on his knees next to a police officer had recognised him, even though news media had blurred his face, and some thought he was involved in the massacre.
"People think I'm one of the bad guys."
A recipient of a state benefit, he has started a gardening business to earn some additional money. His name is on his vehicle and he said the negative publicity would harm his business.
When asked if it crossed his mind that going out dressed in camouflage might create difficulties when the police were dealing with a mass shooting, Millar said: "No. That's what I wear every day. Everyone that knows me knows I have always dressed like that."
Responding to questions about Millar's arrest, the police explained the gravity and fluidity of the situation as it evolved yesterday, but did not comment specifically on his claims.
" … there is a heightened police presence and increased patrols in most areas of Christchurch as part of our response to the terrorist attack and there will be for some time," a police spokesman said.
"Our response yesterday was in the early stages and we were obviously looking closely to build a picture of any of the individuals involved and all of their activities prior to this horrific event. This was a fluid, fast, live and evolving situation.
"Police were responding to a multitude of reports potentially related to the unfolding situation.
"There is no guarantee the risk is limited to Canterbury and we need all New Zealanders to be extra vigilant. Police are also vigilant and will respond appropriately to requests for service such as this.
"Our entire focus remains on managing the situation and supporting the community in Christchurch and protecting the citizens of New Zealand."
- This article first appeared on The New Zealand Herald and has been republished with permission.