Close friend of two victims in Auckland construction shooting speaks publicly for first time

A close friend of the two victims killed last Thursday in a mass shooting in downtown Auckland has spoken publicly for the first time.

Lafaele Sagole was standing next to Solomona Tootoo and Tupulaga Sipiliano when 24-year-old Matu Reid shot them dead. 

He returned to the site for the first time on Thursday morning to attend a mass karakia led by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. 

An outpouring of aroha for two dear friends, gone forever.

"Just say goodbye to my good friend, my uso," Sagole said.

Sagole worked with Sipiliano and Tootoo at the same company for more than 20 years. They were good friends. 

"[They] make me feel like coming to work every morning because his attitude … make me laugh. Very respect (sic)," Sagole said. 

This is the first time Sagole returned to the site since the tragic day. He told Newshub he was standing right next to his friends when they were shot dead by 24-year-old Reid. 

The memories are still very much vivid and raw. 

"It [is] still hard to take. The face of my friend... I feel down," Sagole told Newshub. 

Exactly a week to the day, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei performed a series of karakia to bless the site. A three-pronged process that began at 4:30am in a closed-off service. 

The iwi climbed each of the site's 21 floors onto the roof, lifting the weight of an atrocity they'd not experienced first-hand before. 

"There's a lot of emotion, especially from those who were witness to a lot of the events that took place, but yeah, as our voices rang out I think people found peace and solace in that," said Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei's Ngarimu Blair. 

Then just before 7am there was a public ceremony. More than 200 attended including Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown and Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare.

"It is true that when a stone drops into calm waters it ripples right across the country. And this morning here for Tāmaki Makaurau is a special event not only to calm and soothe the people here of our great city but also to calm the minds and the hearts of people all across Aotearoa," said Minister Henare. 

For Sagole, Thursday morning's karakia was a blessing he and his wife needed. 

"It was emotional. I feel good already after this. Before I don't want to come here to this place but now, what happened here, that ceremony make me feel good (sic)," Sagole said. 

Unsure whether or when he'll return to work, but now the healing can really begin. 

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