Melbourne Storm players have called for an end to fighting and violence in the city’s west after a 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death at a shopping centre earlier this week.
- Melbourne Storm prop Albert Vete lead the messages from the players
- Vete said Solomone’s death had been felt by the Tongan community
- Additional police will stay in Melbourne’s west for weeks over worries of reprisals
Solomone Taufeulungaki was walking with his cousin when a group of up to 10 people ran towards them near the Brimbank Shopping Centre on Tuesday.
The group then set upon Solomone and he was fatally stabbed during a brawl.
While no-one has been charged over his death, six boys aged between 13 and 16 fronted a children’s court on violent disorder and affray charges on Wednesday.
The killing of Solomone has led to fears of reprisals and police have been monitoring social media communications between different gangs across Melbourne’s west and south-east.
A large police presence will remain in Deer Park for weeks in case of further incidents.
‘Stop the fighting, stop all this hate’
On Thursday, Melbourne Storm prop Albert Vete paid tribute to Solomone and said the team’s players wanted to send their love to his family, as part of messages released in both English and Tongan.
“Just a message from the Melbourne Storm boys to the teen, the youth, out here in Melbourne because of what’s happened to Solo, we just want to express, that boys, that we stop the violence, stop the fighting, stop all this hate,” Vete said in an English version of the video.
“On behalf of Cameron Smith and the Melbourne Storm boys, we just want to show our love to Solomone and his family during this tough time, may God be with you guys.”
In the Tongan version, he said: “Firstly, I would like to pay my respect and love to the family of Solomone for the unimaginable pain that has been placed upon you all.”
“Here at the Storm, we feel your pain for what has tragically happened. We pass on our love and prayers to the family.
“We ask our youth to please to stop the hate and fighting and live harmoniously together.
“We give you all our love from Cameron Smith and the rest of the Melbourne Storm boys.”
Cousin ran to church for safety as Solomone killed
Solomone’s cousin Aki Faiva told the Today show she was with Solomone right before he was attacked.
“I was walking with him that day,” Aki said.
“I ran across the street to the church and then they got him and that’s when he got beat up.
“I saw everything.”
Police prepared for revenge
Victoria Police Northwest Metro Commander Tim Hansen said police had activated Operation Omni for 24 hours after receiving intelligence of a potential violent attack.
It did not happen, but a heavy police presence would remain in the area “over the next couple of weeks until we get the sense the likelihood of retribution or reprisal is minimised,” Commander Hansen said.
Activating the operation allows police greater powers, including being able to search people for weapons and remove their masks.
“We have deployed extra resources across Melbourne’s west for what is an ongoing gang issue for us,” Commander Hansen said.
He said there was interplay between different gangs across Melbourne’s west and south-east, with communication between the groups carried out over social media.
“If these kids want to come back into the western suburbs of Melbourne and get involved in a fight in coming days or coming weeks, we will be there ready and waiting for them and they will be held to account,” Commander Hansen said.