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Gun aimed at brawling bar crowd

PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

A 19-year-old man who aimed an unloaded rifle at a group of people outside the Eketahuna Inn is a “family man”, a court has been told.

Freeman Rongonui appeared in Masterton District Court on Thursday for sentencing on two charges of unlawfully carrying a firearm in a public place, and presenting a firearm at a person.

Judge Barbara Morris told Rongonui that presenting a firearm “on its own would result in imprisonment”.

On September 22 last year, Rongonui was at the Eketahuna Inn with his father, the court heard.

At about 10pm a fight broke out inside the pub involving about 20 people, which then spilled out on to the street.

Rongonui then went to his ute, parked directly outside the pub, and pulled out a Magtech .22 rifle.

He then held the rifle and aimed it at the group of people fighting.

Several people swarmed him and forcibly took the rifle off him.

Rongonui then became involved in a fight which spilled into the middle of the road.

Afterwards, the inn’s staff seized a Remington .222 rifle from his vehicle.

Rongonui did not have a firearms licence, and had no lawful reason to carry a firearm.

Defence lawyer Andra Mobberley said Rongonui knew the gun was not loaded.

Judge Morris said the reason he became involved in the fight was to protect his father who was caught up in the brawl.

Many letters of support from an employer, friends, family, and members of the community were presented to the judge.

Judge Morris told Rongonui that from those letters it became clear “this was out of character for you”.

“You are a young man with no history of this type of offending,” she said.

Rongonui was supported in court by his family on Thursday.

Unlawfully carrying a firearm in a public place carries a three-year imprisonment term, while a charge of presenting a firearm at a person carries three months.

Judge Morris said community detention was appropriate and would allow Rongonui time to spend with his young baby.

He was convicted and sentenced to four months community detention.

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