Aue Inangaro Tamariki Vakatini served as an inspiration to his five kids, when he featured in the Cook Islands News in June after working to earn a National Certificate in Business Management, juggling it with driving a truck and looking after his children.
But his five-year-old daughter saw a very different picture, when the little girl watched police arrest him late at night at the Raro Fried Chicken carpark, as he was talking to his wife and daughter.
Vakatini and his wife acknowledge he had been drinking and the couple had been arguing – but he said the police officer’s punch to the right side of his jaw came out of the blue.
Sunday morning was Father’s Day. Vakatini was let out of the police cells, bloodied and nursing a broken jaw.
Police say it was he who was violent: he is to appear at the High Court today facing a charge of threatening to kill a police officer, assaulting and resisting police and damaging a police vehicle.
But Vakatini and his wife tells a very different story. All he can recall is pushing the person away, he says, and in his mind it all happened too fast.
He alleges he was slammed against the back passenger door of his vehicle and handcuffed. “I was beaten and unable to defend myself,” he said. “I did not assault any officer, they did not read me my rights and took me straight to the cell where I was bleeding.”
His wife said: “An officer came to me and asked, are these your kids in the car, I said yes. He asked, who’s the father? I said ‘him’ (Vakatini) and the officer just left.”
The next morning, she said, he came out of the police cell with a cut on his head and a broken jaw.
Ina Nurare, a worker at Raro Fried Chicken, said she heard the couple having an argument and believes Vakatini was intoxicated – but she did not see anything.
And with no other witness, it’s the police word against Vakatini and his wife.
Police spokesman Trevor Pitt said Vakatini was arrested and held in custody for his violent behaviour in the town area. “Incidents where police officers are attacked by random intoxicated man do happen occasionally,” Pitt said.
Lawyer Norman George called for an independent police conduct authority to deal with complaints against officers.