Darwin massacre: ‘I was hearing people being shot dead’
A FATHER who encountered the alleged Darwin massacre gunman during the deadly rampage has shed light on the terrifying moment all hell broke loose.
The shooter was armed with a sawn-off shotgun and killed at least four people over multiple locations in the capital city on Tuesday afternoon. A 45-year-old man, from a respected Darwin family, has been arrested in relation to the incident but can't be named for legal reasons. According to police, the suspect was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet after being released from prison on parole in January.
Witnesses reported that the man walked into the Palms Motel in the inner city suburb of Woolner while holding a shotgun and opened fire on a room door before fleeing the scene.
French chef Maxime Campart, 31, who lives in Darwin with his wife and young child, had just ridden his scooter to the bottle shop directly opposite the motel to "buy a beer" when the incident unfolded, around 5.45pm.
"I was paying for the drink when I heard the first two shots but I thought it was fireworks," he told news.com.au.
"I took the drink and went outside, then I heard two shots more, but I didn't know where they came from.
"Then one lady said: 'someone is shooting, get behind the bar'."
Mr Campart said he and about five other people immediately sought cover and instinctively started plotting how to survive the ordeal. Mr Campart grabbed his scooter helmet to use for protection if required, he said. One of the patrons opened the exit door in case the group needed to make a last minute dash for their lives, because the shopfront was a large, glass window that "wouldn't have protected us from bullets", according to Mr Campart. Moments later, he saw the gunman "with a shotgun in his hand" outside the motel.
"He was very tall and in a white T-Shirt," Mr Campart said.
"I only saw him for one or two seconds.
"When the shots started on the street I called my wife and said: 'stay at home to be safe', but didn't tell her why because I didn't want to scare her."
Mr Campart said he was confused about what was happening in the moment but desperately saddened when he later learned several people had been killed.
"The shots I'd heard weren't just fired into the air...they were into flesh and blood," he told news.com.au.
"Now I realise what I was hearing was people being shot dead."
At the time, the "most scary thing", was not knowing the direction of the shooter or his intention, Mr Campart said.
"I didn't expect this to happen," he continued.
"I'm not the only one who's shocked.
"It's made me realise this kind of thing can happen anywhere and that's the world we live in. "It makes me very insecure for my daughter's future, but mostly I'm just so sorry for the poor people who died."
The first calls to police came after shots were heard on Finniss St in Darwin.
The alleged shooter, described as 195cm tall caucasian man wearing hi-vis work clothes, then jumped in his ute and drove a block away to the Palms Motel on McMinn St where he killed one person. He was driving a friend's white Toyota Hilux ute, according to police.
Witnesses reported hearing up to 20 shots fired at the motel, telling horrifying stories of the man allegedly calmly walking around the property "looking for somebody".
"He shot up all the rooms and he went to every room looking for somebody and he shot them all up, then we saw him rush out, jump into his Toyota pick-up, and rush off," witness John Rose told the ABC.
Leah Potter, who lives next door to the Palms Motel, wrote on Facebook that she helped an injured woman after the alleged shooter fired his shotgun through a door at the property.
Ms Potter posted that she heard something that sounded like fireworks before seeing the injured woman carried outside. Her legs were bleeding and riddled with shotgun pellets.
A man, believed to be the injured woman's boyfriend, dropped her on the road to go and get help from police.
"A man came running with a woman in his arms from next door which is the Palms Motel, which is the motel next to my motel, and he just dropped her on the footpath right in front of us," Ms Potter said.
"I ran and got some towels and wrapped up her legs, she had little holes all in her skin on both her legs and she was bleeding everywhere."
The man then allegedly fled the motel to an apartment complex on Garden Hills Crescent in The Gardens, where another person is believed to have been killed.
"We're still putting together the chronology of events," Mr Kershaw said.
A witness told the ABC police initially drove straight past the man.
"We looked through the window and there was a guy with a gun. We put (our car) in reverse and went straight back. As we were going around the block, we saw him walking calmly through the unit blocks. The cops came around, went straight past him because they didn't know who he was, he was that calm," the Darwin local said.
"He put his gun in the boot (of his ute) then reversed out. The cops followed him and they took off down the street and then we just heard gunshots again."
It's understood the other two men were killed at The Buff Club in Stuart Park and Jolly St in Woolner.
Speaking at a press conference last night, NT Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw
said police had received reports the man had allegedly fought with someone at the Buff Club, ending in a knife and gun being drawn.
In nearby Woolner, Darwin recycling worker Johnny Reid told the NT News that the gunman knocked down his unit door, about 6pm.
"I asked him what he was doing but he went right past me and shot my mate," Mr Reid told the newspaper.
"His body is still in there.
"It was unbelievable."
The victims have not yet been publicly identified.
Mr Kershaw said the alleged gunman went on the run for about an hour then called the NT Police Duty Superintendent and asked to be placed in protective custody.
"We do believe he was trying to hand himself in," Mr Kershaw said.
Mr Kershaw said the man allegedly still had his shotgun when the heavly-armed tactical response group - dressed in camouflage gear - tackled him at a city roundabout.
Video taken at the scene shows the man, covered in blood and no longer wearing a shirt, lying on his back as he tried to kick the weapon away from one of the police officers.
The man was tasered at the scene before being taken away in a police vehicle.
He spent the night under police guard in a Darwin hospital.
Police cordoned off several areas, including at The Palms Motel on McMinn St, Garden Hills Crescent, a Coles Express petrol station on Daly St, Jolly St in Woolner, The Buff Club in Stuart Park, and the roundabout where the suspect was arrested.
A crime scene was also declared at the Peter McAulay Centre - the central complex for policing in Darwin - after the man allegedly tried to gain entry to the building.
An NT Police spokeswoman declined to comment further as investigations continued overnight. She told news.com.au the department planned to release more details about the incident later this morning.
The NT News reports that the suspect was fired from his job with a roofing company just days ago because he "wasn't coming to work", according to his former boss. Police also confirmed they are investigating his alleged links to outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Mr Kershaw wouldn't be drawn on the alleged shooter's possible motive.
"I'm not going to speculate, and that's something we've got to work through with our detectives," he said at the Tuesday press conference.
"This is one individual who has acted individually, and has unfortunately taken the action he has.
"He is an individual who is well known to police and has a number of interactions adverse with the police force, so he is well known to us.
"I did speak this evening with the Corrections Commissioner, my information is around January of this year he was released on parole."
Royal Darwin Hospital spokeswoman Sally Edwards said the emergency department was treating a woman with leg wounds who was in a stable condition.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters: "This is not the Darwin we know".
"I understand when an event like this occurs, people's fears turn to terrorism. I can confirm we do not believe this is not a terrorism incident," he said.
"This many be an event you prepare for but this is never an event you want to respond to. It is an incredibly difficult night tonight. Territorians can be proud of those who serve us on our front line."
Speaking from The Australia-UK Chamber of Commerce in London, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his thoughts were with the territory.
"It's a terrible act of violence that has already taken lives," Mr Morrison said.
"Particularly, I want to extend my deepest condolences and sympathies to all the people of the Territory and particularly in Darwin. This is a very tight community and I know they will be rocked by these events.
"Our advice is that this is not a terrorist act, nothing to suggest this was the case whatsoever. The true motivations of this criminal and violent act will become better known … but in the meantime I think it is important that everyone in Darwin, in the Territory, understands that the thoughts of Australians, wherever they are, will be thinking very much of their fellow Australians in the Territory."