Streets Fill With Gang Members Mourning Member who Died in Police Custody

Streets in New Zealand's capital filled with members of the country's motorcycle gangs on Friday as they turned out to mourn the death of one of their own: Taranaki "Ardie" Fuimaono, who died shortly after being taken into police custody last week.

Citing the need to protect the public, local police closed several roads in central Auckland to traffic to accommodate the 300 person-strong funeral procession. The decision was criticized by some politicians and law enforcement officers, according to Newshub.

National MP Simeon Brown took to Twitter to express his anger.

"By shutting down roads in Auckland for gangs - it sends all the wrong messages - emboldens the gangs - and poses the question whether gangs have more power than Police under this Government?" he wrote.

The gangs represented included Black Power, Two Eight Brotherhood, the Rebels, the King Cobras, the Mongrel Mob, the Killer Beez, the Sons of Samoa, the Head Hunters, and the New Zealand chapter of the Hell's Angels, according to 9news.com.au.

Several of them are known to be "traditional rivals," but evidently put aside their differences for the day to honor Fuimaono, according to The New Zealand Herald.

The 43-year-old father was arrested on drug charges on the evening of June 12. Around midnight on June 13, he was found unresponsive and was taken to Auckland City Hospital for treatment, where he passed away. The circumstances surrounding his death are under investigation, according to Newshub.

The Head Hunters arrived at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in the city center on Friday morning and were soon followed by representatives for the other gangs, according to stuff.co.nz. When the funeral service concluded, they followed the hearse that contained the coffin to several locations in the city that had held significance for Fuimaono.

Fuimaono was a member of the Head Hunters and a former member of the King Cobras, according to the Herald. He was buried in a cemetery in a suburb of Auckland.

While motorcycle gang activity and organized crime are not necessarily interchangeable, the two are often intertwined, according to a June 10 article published by stuff.co.nz. For their part, the Head Hunters are somewhere between a street gang and an outlaw motorcycle club. They have been implicated in everything from drug trafficking to murder over the course of their 52-year history and control a significant chunk of the national methamphetamine market to this day, according to a 2017 investigation published by The New Zealand Herald.

Motorcycle gang members attend a gathering.
Members of the Outlaws motorcycle gang attend a gathering in Port Dover, Ontario on July 13, 2018. Head Hunters gang member Taranaki "Ardie" Fuimaono was honored in Auckland, New Zealand on Friday, nearly a week after he died after being arrested by police. GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images