Steve Roberts was looking forward to hanging out in the playground at McDonald’s Clendon and chowing down on a Bacon and Egg McMuffin.
Instead the 9-year-old found himself trapped in the playground with a swearing, shouting fleeing driver, sheltering his young nephew and niece as a policeman with a Taser tried to batter down the door.
It was the last Saturday of the school holidays. Steve had just ordered his breakfast with his parents Chris and Ana and their grandkids when he saw the man running through the Manurewa takeaway outlet.
“I saw him running around the tables – at first I thought he was playing tag,” Steve said.
In fact the man was fleeing police, after ramming a police car and driving away before dumping his car on a road near McDonald’s.
The man, who had a large face tattoo, ran into the restaurant. He told Chris he was in trouble, on the run from police and needed a ride.
Chris tried to entice the man out of McDonald’s but as police closed in the man ran into the playground and jammed the door shut.
Inside were Steve and his nephew and niece, 5 and 3, as well as a woman with a baby and a little girl. Steve pulled the kids behind him and tried to get the little girl to stand behind him too.
“I was kind of panicked,” he said, adding the man was shouting and swearing.
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Steve couldn’t hear his parents but he could see them. He focused on the man but shot a terrified look at his dad, who was kneeling by the door, begging the man to let his kids out.
The police officer tried to force open the door, and threatened to use his Taser.
Finally he wedged his boot in and shoved the door open, arresting the man without further incident.
Steve held it together until he got to his parents; then the tears flowed. The oblivious grandchildren thought the whole thing was an action movie. But Ana was shaking and Chris could barely speak.
“The thing that got me was the look [Steve] gave me through the glass when the guy was in there,” Chris said.
“That’s something that’ll haunt me for the rest of my life I think, just feeling so helpless.”
“The thing that got me was the look he gave me through the glass…That’s something that’ll haunt me for the rest of my life I think, just feeling so helpless.”
“You hear about it, you read it, you see it on the news but I didn’t think I would ever witness anything like that,” Ana said.
“I was scared not knowing if that guy had a weapon, not knowing if he was going to grab one of the kids. It didn’t really hit me until [Steve] came out … I’m just grateful that nothing worse happened.”
The other woman tearfully thanked them, saying “You have a good son. What he did in there was amazing.” Then Ana hugged her and she left.
Police confirmed a man had been arrested and charged over the October 12 incident, after officers pulled over a vehicle on Sykes Rd around 9.30am.
As the police officer was about to get out of their car, the driver rammed the police car, causing damage but no injuries, a spokeswoman said.
He then drove off, initiating a pursuit which was abandoned shortly after. The vehicle was located abandoned on Sharland Ave and the driver found in McDonald’s Clendon.
A 22-year-old man has appeared in court on a number of charges – including driving charges, assault charges and intentional damage – and was remanded in custody to reappear on January 17, 2020.
Two weeks later Steve still dwells on what happened. “It’s still kind of scary that I know that there’s people out there like that that are running from the cops. If I had to go through that every day I’d probably be scared.”
The Roberts don’t want Steve to feel unsafe in his own neighbourhood and plan to take him back to McDonald’s to show him everything’s back to normal.
They were surprised police did not speak with them or the other woman in the playground after the incident.
They were also gutted to see several people – including a grown man – pulling out their phones to film the incident instead of trying to help.
A police spokeswoman said she could not comment on the specific situation but generally when incidents happened in public places it may not be feasible for police to speak to everyone there.
Anyone who was troubled by something they saw or involved in was encouraged to seek support and contact police if they had anything to add, she said.