Antony Ratahi’s family vow to continue their fight for justice

By Native Affairs

Antony Ratahi’s family are devastated with the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report decision, which found the actions of the officer who fatally shot Ratahi were justified.

Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said “Police were faced with an incredibly dangerous situation and courageously put their own lives at risk to ensure the safety of Mr Ratahi's hostage.

However Antony Ratahi’s eldest daughter Cassia Proebstel says shooting to kill her father wasn’t necessary and he had made over a dozen attempts to seek help for his deteriorating mental health in the months before his shooting.

She says, “the police shot and killed a mentally unwell man who sought help for his problem but didn’t receive it.”

Ratahi was shot through the eye and killed by police in July 2011 in a stand-off at Opunake Hotel, after he barricaded himself and his former partner Marcelle Beer in the Hotel for over 13 hours.

According to the IPCA report, leading up to the stand-off between Ratahi and Police, attempts to talk to Ratahi at the Opunake Hotel were made and eventually he was drawn out of the hotel and a police dog was set on him, he quickly began retreating and dragged the Police dog, which was latched onto his leg, back inside the hotel with him.

The report goes on to say, officers forced the reception entrance door open as Ratahi was running up the stairs but he then quickly turned around and came back down the stairs towards the officers. As he reached the bottom of the stairs the officers and Ms Beer saw Mr Ratahi reach into his jacket. Believing he was reaching for a gun, an officer fired a single shot that struck Mr Ratahi in the head. He instantly fell face down on the floor, medical assistance was provided at the scene and paramedics then examined Ratahi and confirmed he had died.

Judge Sir David Carruthers says, “Although the incident ended in the death of Mr Ratahi, Police can be praised for their actions and approach in ensuring the successful removal of his hostage without injury to anyone else involved.”

Regardless of the findings, Cassia Proebstel says her family is “not satisfied with the outcome and she has vowed that the fight for justice for her father is not over.”

Just last year, Ratahi’s family told Te Kāea, the impact of his death and the way in which he died not only caused them immense grief but led to his younger grandchildren having to get counselling to deal with the trauma.

The family were also shocked to hear reports that members of the team of officers dispatched to the Opunake Hotel had been drinking in the hours leading up to the stand-off. The family and Ms Beer had serious questions about an officer’s ability to accurately navigate and judge a dangerous situation like that, under the influence of alcohol.

At the time the reports surfaced Police said the officer who fired the shot had not been drinking.

While his family acknowledge he was troubled and in need of help, they as well as the woman he held captive in the restaurant say he made numerous attempts to seek help for his problems, but help never came.

Shortly after Ratahi was killed his family spoke exclusively with Native Affair’s reporter Semiramis Holland, raising serious concerns about the way in which he died. They questioned why Police shot Ratahi through the eye and allowed Native Affairs to film the tupāpaku of their loved one, in the hope that the many questions they had for Police would be answered.

WARNING SOME VIEWERS MAY FIND SOME OF THE CONTENT IN THIS VIDEO DISTURBING AND DISCRETION IS ADVISED – ANTONY RATAHI’S FAMILY HAVE PARTICIPATED IN UPDATING THE STORY AND HAVE APPROVED THE IMAGES OF THE BODY BE REPUBLISHED.

Semiramis Holland also spent time with Marcelle Beer the woman at the centre of the hostage drama that led to Police shooting Ratahi. She described him as a clever, funny and passionate person, but also said he was severely depressed and suicidal. She says he knew he was desperately in need of help and he made attempts to seek that help from the Mental Health System, however she told Native Affairs instead of receiving help he was treated with contempt. 

WARNING SOME VIEWERS MAY FIND SOME OF THE CONTENT IN THIS VIDEO DISTURBING AND DISCRETION IS ADVISED – ANTONY RATAHI’S FAMILY HAVE PARTICIPATED IN UPDATING THE STORY AND HAVE APPROVED THE IMAGES OF THE BODY BE REPUBLISHED.

Native Affairs will be discussing the report on Monday evening at 8:30 pm on Māori Television.