The parents of a schoolboy gunned down at a Christchurch party say they are “shocked and heartbroken” by the loss of their beloved son and have urged a man still on the run to turn himself in.
Connor Whitehead, 16, was killed in a shooting during the party on Heaphy Place in Casebrook on Friday night.
A 32-year-old concrete worker has been charged with the teen’s murder. He remains in Christchurch Hospital with injuries believed to have been sustained from a police dog during his arrest, and has been remanded in custody. His accomplice remains on the run.
Connor’s parents, James Whitehead and Cheryl Merrin, spoke to media on Tuesday to appeal for the wanted man to come forward. Whitehead said the family was “shocked and heartbroken” by Connor’s loss.
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“Connor was an innocent bystander. He should have been safe.”
The family had no connection to those involved in the “horrible” attack, he said.
“Right now we want to celebrate and remember Connor for the amazing son, brother and friend he was.”
Whitehead and Connor had planned to see the new Spider-Man movie soon, and Snoop Dogg next year.
James Whitehead, father of Connor Whitehead, makes a public plea for a man wanted by police to turn himself in.
“I’ve not only lost my son, Cheryl’s not only lost her son, but we’ve lost a friend.”
He urged the man still on the run to “do the right thing, hand yourself in”.
Detective Senior Sergeant Nicky Reeves, who is in charge of the investigation dubbed Operation Stack, said police had made “significant progress” in their investigation into Connor’s death.
“We are still actively seeking one other person. That person is aware that they are being sought.”
Reeves said other people may know where this person is.
She urged them to put themselves in the shoes of Connor’s family and come forward.
“The message is very simple: Now is the time to do the right thing and come and speak with us. Connor had his whole life ahead of him and this brutal and senseless incident has robbed that from him and his family.”
Reeves said police’s inquiries for the wanted man had so far focused on Canterbury.
“We know that there are people out there who have been assisting this person.”
The firearm believed to have been used in the incident had been recovered by police on Tuesday, she said.
“The purpose of today is to appeal to that person that now is the time for you to come forward and speak to us … and for anybody out there who is assisting this person in any way, they need to contact us.”
The alleged shooter was taken into custody on Sunday evening after armed police used a chainsaw to cut into a house in Dunster St, Burnside.
It’s understood police will allege he and the man who remains on the run had driven to the Casebook party together.
Soon after arriving, they became involved in a fight with someone.
The 32-year-old allegedly retrieved a shotgun from the car and fired two rounds.
Connor, who was an innocent bystander, was killed.
The incident was witnessed by a group of partygoers who had been watching the altercation.
Three other people – a man aged 46 who was arrested after armed police searched a property in Spencerville, north of Christchurch, and two women aged 43 and 36 – appeared in court on Monday, all charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder.
Police allege the 46-year-old man, a forklift operator, “comforted” the man who remains on the run by allowing him to stay at his house to avoid arrest, court documents show.
Armed police descended on a home in Christchurch in an operation related to the fatal shooting of Connor Whitehead who was killed while attending a 15th birthday party on Friday night.
They allege the 43-year-old woman helped the wanted man to avoid arrest and that the 36-year-old woman helped the 32-year-old man avoid capture.
The trio were denied bail and scheduled to appear in the High Court at Christchurch on November 26.
Judge Anthony Couch granted interim name suppression to all the people either arrested or wanted in connection with the alleged murder.
Police searched an Aranui home on Monday morning looking for the 32-year-old man’s alleged accomplice.
Whitehead’s father, James Whitehead, earlier told Stuff his son was enjoying himself with friends “making the most of the time with his boys”, at a girl’s party on Friday night.
“Connor wasn’t involved in whatever was going on outside the party, he hadn’t even interacted with the person responsible.”
Anyone with information should call police on 105 and quote the event number P048523046 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.