An hour-long shooting rampage rocked the northern Australian city of Darwin, ending in the death of at least four men, the hospitalisation of at least one woman, and the arrest of a lone suspected gunman.
Northern Territory police apprehended the alleged shooter—described as a 45-year-old Caucasian male—without incident on Tuesday night. He remained in hospital under police guard on Wednesday.
Witnesses have described scenes of chaos as victims were gunned down in hotel rooms, at worksites, and on otherwise quiet suburban streets.
Here’s what we know about the attacks so far:
The shooting spree took place at several locations throughout Darwin, primarily in and around the city centre. Police believe the gunman acted alone, and at least four people are confirmed to have been killed during the hour that he was on the loose.
- Northern Territory police first started receiving calls regarding shots being fired at the Palms Motel, in Darwin’s central business district, at about 5:50 PM local time on Tuesday night, The Guardian reported.
- One man was killed at the Palms Motel. Three more were killed shortly thereafter: one at nearby pub the Buffalo Club, one on the quiet street of Gardens Hill Crescent in the suburb of The Gardens, and one at an industrial site on Jolly Street, in the inner city suburb of Woolner.
- At least one woman was also shot and injured at The Gardens, and was taken to hospital for treatment.
- It has been confirmed that the gunman used a shotgun—some witnesses have described it as a pump-action, others as a sawn-off—but its exact type is not yet known. It is also not known whether or not the firearm was legally obtained.
- It is thought that a knife was also involved during a fight at the Buffalo Club.
- The gunman was on the loose for about an hour before finally being arrested by NT police at 6.45 PM at the busy intersection of Stuart Highway and McMinn Street.
- Police identified at least five different crime scenes from the incident, according to the ABC, including the Palms Motel, the Buffalo Club, and Gardens Hill Crescent, as well as a Coles Express Service Station and the Peter McCauley Centre, which is home to NT police headquarters. Police believe the shooter was trying to hand himself in at the Peter McCauley Centre.
- It is not yet known if or how the victims were linked to the shooter, according to Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw, but more information is expected to be released.
- Police do not believe the incident was terrorism-related, and are still trying to establish the motivation. The shooter is thought to have acted alone.
The suspected shooter has been identified as Ben Hoffmann. Hoffmann had recently served "more than a year" in prison, and was on parole and wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet at the time of the shootings. It is not yet known whether the bracelet led police to his location.
"He is an individual who is well known to police and has a number of interactions, adverse, with the police force," Commissioner Kershaw said last night.
Fairfax reports that Hoffmann was released on parole in January, and has links to outlaw motorcycle gangs. It's understood that he was bashed two days prior to the shooting.
"He was just a normal guy growing up but at some stage, maybe 15 or 16 years ago, we drifted to a normal life, and he drifted to a life of drugs and crime,” a former friend of Hoffmann’s told Fairfax. “As far as I know, the last 15 years he's been in and out of jail… [and] from what I've heard, since he's been out of jail he's been heavily into drugs."
Commissioner Reece Kershaw said officers were able to track down Hoffmann after he contacted a police duty superintendent, who alerted others to his location. Police believe he acted alone.
"He asked to be placed into protective custody, which we did," Commissioner Kershaw said. "We do believe he may have been trying to hand himself in. We're not sure."
Multiple witnesses have given detailed accounts of the shootings.
- Jasmine Kielly, who was staying at the Palms Motel with her boyfriend Brendon Ozanne, told the ABC, “I heard some loud banging—silly me went out the front to check. As I’ve gone down towards the stairs, I saw a man in a high-vis shirt walk out with a rifle. He’s turned to look at me and I’ve run to the bedroom and locked the door and we hid in the bathroom and we called the police and just heard shot after shot after shot.”
Jasmine and Brendon reportedly hid in the shower for about 40 minutes.
"We heard him walk up the stairs at one point and I kind of just thought that was it," Jasmine said. "He had a pretty good shot if he wanted to hit me and he didn't even aim the gun at me; he was there for a reason."
- Another witness, John Rose, told the ABC he had seen a man walk into the Palms Motel with a “sawn-off shotgun. 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.”
- Other witnesses have reported that the gunman entered the Palms Motel asking for someone named “Alex”.
"He was asleep, heard all the banging and opened the door and the guy was there with his gun, and he just said, 'Where's Alex?' and he said, 'I don't know where he is'," one witness told the ABC. "And he [the gunman] said, 'No worries,' and turned around and started shooting the place up again."
Police are yet to comment on the identity of "Alex".
- Leah Potter, who was in a carpark near the Palms Motel at about 6 PM, claimed a woman was shot through the door to her room. She told the ABC: “I heard what I thought were fireworks going off, really loud cracking, banging fireworks. And then 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… so the boyfriend dropped the bleeding woman in front of us and he ran over to the Coles Express to get the police.”
- Leah said she “ran and got some towels and wrapped up her [the victim’s] legs, she had little holes all in her skin on both her legs and she was bleeding everywhere."
- Matthew James told Channel Nine that he was standing in a motel car park when “all of a sudden there were these gunshots. Moments later someone came running towards me carrying this woman who was covered in blood and just basically put her at my feet and she was screaming that she had been shot," SBS reports.
- “The guy that actually carried her up was pretty frantic at the time, saying he had opened the door and there was a gunman there with a shotgun and he proceeded to fire upon anybody inside the building. She was caught up in it, she said, ‘I’ve been shot, I don’t know why, I don’t have anything to do with anything.’”
- Johnny Reid told NT News he was watching television at his worksite in Woolner when, at about 6pm, the door of the unit he was sitting in was barged down by a man brandishing a shotgun. “He busted in and looked right at me. I looked at him and thought, ‘Fuck, this is it.’ I thought I was dead for sure. I asked him what he was doing but he went right past me and shot my mate. His body is still in there.”
- Peter Boden, who also lives near the worksite, said he was walking home when he saw the alleged gunman pull up in a white double-cab ute and walk inside. “He looked like your normal average-day white guy. I thought he must have known one of the residents in there and then the next minute I heard ‘bang’.”
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