Police charged 26-year-old father-of–five Aue Vakatini with assault on an officer, even though he emerged from the cells the next morning with a broken jaw that he said was inflicted by a police punch.
Nooroa Setephano has posted a video shot outside Raro Fried Chicken in Avarua, showing Vakatini being pushed to the ground after he was handcuffed, before a uniformed police officer punched him forcefully on the side of the jaw.
This fits Vakatini’s description, when he was interviewed in Cook Islands News last month, of an officer’s punch to the right side of his jaw that “came out of the blue.”
Setephano says in her post: “It hurts me so bad to see my son struggle during his six weeks’ recovery.”
She cried when she first watched the video. “It’s heartbreaking, when I watch that video I can’t eat.”
She is happy somebody came forward with the video, saying it proves there were witnesses.
In the video, Vakatini asks police “What have I done wrong?” while they handcuff him on a police vehicle and then proceed to throw him onto the ground.
“He was handcuffed and couldn’t defend himself,” said Setephano.
Vakatini is charged with threatening to kill a police officer, assaulting and resisting police and damaging a police vehicle.
Defence counsel Mark Short has requested an adjournment to wait for the disclosure of all evidence from witnesses.
Yesterday, Short said he would be interested in seeing the video evidence.
Police Commissioner Maara Tetava says the case is still active.
The file is presently with the Crown Law Office and there are a number of factors being investigated, including the actions of the suspect, said police spokesperson Trevor Pitt.
“In such cases, the Police have a legal right to use force but it must be reasonable force to restrain the suspect while under arrest. These circumstances would have to be determined by the Court if there is a case to be submitted for consideration, or for a ruling.”
Pitt said there were two investigations running: a criminal investigation and a Professional Standards investigation.
Vakatini is due back in court on November 28.