NZ police officer dies after alleged assault

13:21, Aug 23 2012
Kali Fungavaka
VICTIM: Kali Fungavaka.

Surrounded by his wife and children, New Zealand police constable Kali Fungavaka died last night in a Tongan hospital after allegedly being assaulted by Tongan police and a prisoner.

Two Tongan police officers and an inmate have been charged with assault after Mr Fungavaka was attacked in two separate incidents just hours after he had helped bury his grandfather in Tonga.

Friends yesterday described him as a "family man with four beautiful kids, who had just got married".

He was a shinning example for the community he worked in, said David Palahame.

Mr Fungavaka had been awarded a New Zealand Bravery Medal for actions trying to save a woman set alight in Otahuhu - an act which inspired him to then join the police.

His wife Audra said she and all their children were at his bedside where he had been on life support for six days when he died at 6.30pm local time.

She said the family were handling the ordeal well.

Mr Fungavaka had gone to Tonga for his grandfather's funeral and acted as a pall bearer last Friday.

Later than day he apparently became involved in a brawl with Tongan colleagues in a bar in central Nuku'alofa on Friday night (local time).

He was then arrested for alleged drunkenness and taken to a police cell shared with four or five others picked up that night.

A further alleged assault then happened on Mr Fungavaka in the cell.

Another Tongan man, Kalisitiane Manu, who was also arrested for drunkenness in a public place that Friday night, has been charged with bodily harm of Mr Fungavaka and will appear in the Magistrate's Court next Monday.

Tongan Police assistant commissioner Viliami 'Unga Fa'aoa said a date for the court appearance of the two Tongan police officers had not been set, but it was likely the pair would appear late next week.

He said Mr Fungavaka had suffered head injuries and undergone surgery at Vaiola Hospital after being taken there at around 5:00 am on Saturday August 18 (local time).

He understood Mr Fungavaka had not regained consciousness.

Mr Fungavaka lived in Manurewa and was a serving constable at Otahuhu.

David Palahame said he was shocked by the news.

Mr Fungavaka's role as a police officer had won him a lot of friends around South Auckland, he said.

Another friend, Abinadi Lameko, said Mr Fungavaka was a placid character who would not have invited trouble.

"Kali, he's real humble," Mr Lameko said.

"He doesn't fight at all. I know he drinks but he's not a violent drinker, he's a laid-back guy."

Mr Fungavaka received a New Zealand Bravery Medal for his actions in August 2003 as he tried to save a woman set alight by her ex-boyfriend at an Otahuhu petrol station.

His actions in dousing the fire, first by soaking his jumper in water and applying it to her burning body, and then grabbing a fire extinguisher, were not enough to save the woman, but did inspire his dream to join the police.

New Zealand police issued a statement saying they were saddened to learn of Fungavaka's death.

He had been an "outstanding officer", Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush said.

Fungavaka’s colleagues described him as quiet and unassuming, very humble and very passionate about policing and making a difference, especially in the Polynesian community, he said.

"He was always one of those staff members who could be relied upon when the going got tough. He was a valued member of the police family.”

“We have conveyed our deepest sympathy to his partner and family and our thoughts are with them.”