'Pack mentality' in attack on police

An attack in which party-goers took turns to kick, punch and beat a police officer with a baseball bat while he lay unconscious on the ground appalled a witness.

The assault, by a group who took on a "pack mentality" in Dargaville, was horrific, the witness told the New Zealand Herald.

"They didn't seem to care ... They weren't listening [to the police]. It was out of control."

The witness, who wouldn't be named, said the other policeman present tried to shield his partner from the attackers.

Residents could barely believe what they were seeing when a woman picked up a police stun-gun and pointed it at the policemen.

"She picked up the Taser and fired it, then smashed the damn thing," the witness said.

The attack happened outside a Tirarau St house about 8pm, where a Christmas Day party was in full swing. It was one of at least four against the police this Christmas.

Dargaville deputy fire chief Michael Ross and his brother Craig rushed to the scene when they heard that a policeman was down.

They saw people kicking and jumping on the two officers. It was appalling. "People should have more respect for the badge," Michael Ross said.

The police were out-numbered. "There wasn't a lot they could do."

He said no one knew what to expect when some of the mob, who had fled, walked back up the road towards them with "arms flailing".

One person who rushed at the bashed police threatened, "I'm going to kill you".

The brothers gave first-aid to the officers until an ambulance arrived.

The violence began after a nearby Brethren Church complained that members had been threatened by youths who yelled abuse and then smashed letterboxes and signs on Gordon St, around the corner from where the police were attacked.

A policeman tracked the youths to the house and when he tried to arrest one, party-goers became aggressive.

He called for help and was joined by a colleague, who helped subdue the crowd with pepper spray.

But a 9-year-old child was hit by the spray and the furious people began to beat and kick the officers.

One constable fired his Taser at them, but he was knocked out cold. The assault continued as he lay on the ground. He later said the last thing he could recall was the Taser being aimed at him.

The stun-gun didn't fire and the woman smashed it on the ground.

She had earlier thrown a brick towards him, although it isn't clear if it was the brick that knocked him out.

Police arrested five men and two women aged 16-28 and said more arrests were likely.

The area commander, Inspector Tracy Phillips, said it was a "low key" job that she would have felt comfortable any staff doing. She believed the "brutal" assault was aggravated by fact the crowd were intoxicated and descended into a "pack mentality".

"Had they been rational and sober, I don't think this would have happened."

Yesterday, a woman at the house told the Herald she "went berserk" because of the pepper spray.

Another man there said of the whole episode: "It shouldn't have happened."

Ms Phillips said the 9-year-old child was not supposed to be have been sprayed. "We don't pepper-spray children on purpose." She called the incident "cross-contamination".

In Waikato, there have been three assaults against police in four days, the most recent against two Huntly officers following up a boy-racer complaint.

One was "king hit" from behind while he tried to calm a crowd who were resisting arrest. Other assaults involved a mother and son who attacked an officer in Matamata, and a female officer whose ankle was badly broken while she was dealing with a family violence incident.

- Andrew Koubaridis

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