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‘Who’s being protected?’ Incident shakes Carterton store owner

CCTV footage of the September 11 incident at the Carterton Bottle Store. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI
[email protected]

A Carterton business owner is concerned police are not treating an incident at his store seriously – an incident he says involved racial slurs and threats.

Carterton Bottle Store owner Shekar Chandra Naidu said at about 4.20pm on September 11, a pakeha man in his 60s or 70s brought a four-pack of Jim Beam bottles to the counter.

The customer allegedly complained people were not completing the mandatory covid-19 sign-in and became increasingly aggressive in his tone.

Naidu said there were multiple QR codes near the entrance and the business could not monitor each person.

“At this stage, in his aggressive behaviour, he said, ‘Go back to your country if you don’t know the law here’. He even said, ‘You don’t belong here’. His statement was very disappointing, disturbing, and distressing,” Naidu said.

When asked to complete his transaction, the man allegedly said, “You don’t deserve to be paid, I’m not going to pay for this,” and began walking away with the item.

Silent CCTV footage provided to the Times-Age showed Naidu putting his hand through a gap in the safety glass, while the man snatched the item out of his reach.

As Naidu came out from behind the counter, the customer removed a bottle from the cardboard packaging and walked towards Naidu.

A tussle ensued as Naidu attempted to take the bottle from the man. Eventually, the customer put the bottle on the counter and walked out of the store.

“I wanted him out because he might hit someone,” Naidu said.

“He was shouting at us saying, ‘You f***ing Sri Lankan, Indian, get out of this country,’ … he even said, ‘I will smash your face black c***’.”

When he called police later that night, he was advised by a spokesperson said that someone would be in touch within 24 hours.

He had not heard back when the Times-Age spoke to him on Thursday.

On Friday, Wairarapa Police Senior Sergeant Jennifer Hansen said police had received calls from the two parties involved in the matter, with differing allegations made.

“After receiving the first call on the evening of the incident, police attended the bottle store and found it closed. The staff involved in this investigation will be following up on their return to duty,” she said.

“This was prior to the second call received in relation to this matter – from the retailer, eight hours after the alleged incident occurred.

“Police take reports of threats and hate speech seriously and in events of imminent risk, will respond immediately. Staff will be following up with the parties involved to establish exactly what has occurred.”

Police then visited the store at 11am on Saturday, Naidu said, and told him they had approached the man, who had accepted responsibility.

“If this man realises what he’s done is wrong, that’s enough,” Naidu said.

However, he said the man’s partner had then commented on the business’s Facebook page, and Naidu rang the police again.

He was visited by two sets of police personnel on Monday, at 10am and 11am.

A sergeant and a liquor licensing officer attended during the 10am visit, Naidu said.

The sergeant allegedly told him a trespass notice would be issued against the customer, but that Naidu should not have tried to take the bottles, and the case was now closed.

According to Naidu, the sergeant had not seen the CCTV footage. It was unclear why the liquor licensing officer was in attendance, but Naidu interpreted this as an act of intimidation.

When asked why he had waited until midnight to call police, Naidu said he was initially not planning to report the incident but could not sleep that night.

The 11am police personnel had no knowledge of the earlier visit, Naidu said, and told him they were the officers assigned to the case.

They asked to see the footage and told Naidu they would follow up with the other man, indicating the case was not closed, as suggested earlier.

When the Times-Age contacted police on Monday to confirm whether it was making further enquiries and why two visits were made with officers providing differing information, a police spokesperson said they had nothing further to add.

The spokesperson also declined to comment on why a liquor licensing officer was brought to the earlier meeting, any next steps, and when Naidu could expect an update.

Naidu was concerned police were not taking the matter seriously and wondered whether this was due to his previous interactions with them.

During a shoplifting incident in June last year, he stopped a theft at the store with a stick.

At the time, Naidu said one of the two police officers who later attended the incident proceeded to question his use of the stick while declining to take details of the theft.

The officer allegedly said, “In this country, we don’t chop off fingers”, which Naidu interpreted to be a racially orientated comment related to the practice, in some countries, of amputating thieves’ limbs.

“Only when I escalated the matter right up to the Prime Minister’s office … he admitted [he made the statement]. He said ‘I’m sorry, I said it’,” Naidu said.

Hansen confirmed on Friday “any previous involvement with police has no bearing on the [current] response”.

Naidu said there were about seven to eight stores owned by Asians on Carterton’s High St.

“My point is, why can’t they take things seriously?” he said.

“There’s a free man that knows he can abuse any dark-skinned man and get away with it.

“He’s shown he has that racial anger. He’s a man full of hate towards a different race.”

The incident had upset the four customers in the store at the time, Naidu said, with some apologising for the other man’s behaviour.

“This is a family business, it’s me, my wife and my daughter.

“What has happened, I’m trying to tell people it’s wrong. I’m trying to tell the law … what’s happening is wrong.

“Who’s being protected? That man, who’s made threats to me.”

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