At least 49 people were shot and killed in a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 14, 2019, with eyewitnesses describing a heavily armed, military-jacket clad gunman who opened fire during prayers.
The Al Noor Mosque is located near Christchurch’s Hagley Park. The other mosque that was attacked is in Linwood. In addition, another 20 people are wounded, including children, in the twin attacks that horrified the world.
The shooter appears to have livestreamed the mass shooting on social media video. The video was published on the page of a man named Brenton Tarrant. You can read more about the Brenton Tarrant social media posts and video here.
The extremely disturbing Facebook live video, which has not been confirmed by authorities (although they say they’re aware of it), shows the man walking toward the mosque through a gate and then up to the front door. You see him aim the gun at the door and start shooting. He walks past a dead body and screams erupt. He shoots several people in a hall and then walks into a larger communal area and shoots other people. Bodies lay crumpled on the ground. A man runs past at one point and he reloads. You can see writing on his rifle as he does so. He then walks into the area and shoots at bodies already lying on the ground. He also appears to have uploaded a manifesto online and posted pictures of weaponry to Twitter with anti-Muslim rants about birthrates and white genocide. He also scrawled the names of other mass shooters on the weapons.
New Zealand police now say they have three men and a woman in custody, although they haven’t released their names. It’s not clear what role, if any, the other people played in the massacres, as police are still investigating.
NZHerald reported that the Christchurch gunman live streamed the shooting for 17 minutes in the video. You can see screenshots from the graphic video below.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Reports Say Dozens Might Be Wounded With ‘Blood Everywhere’ & the Gunman Described Himself as an ‘Ordinary White Man’
In the extremely disturbing white nationalist manifesto, Brenton Tarrant answers a series of questions that people might pose to a mass shooter. One question asked who he was, and he wrote, “Just a ordinary white man, 28 years old. Born in Australia to a working class, low income family. My parents are of Scottish, Irish and English stock. I had a regular childhood, without any great issues. I had little interest in education during my schooling, barely achieving a passing grade.” He claimed he invested in “bitconnect,” used the money to travel, and added, “I am just a regular white man, from a regular family. Who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people.”
At the beginning of the video, he says, “subscribe to PewDiePie.” At the end of the manifesto, he says, “Europa arises.” The document is a lengthy rant about mass immigration, Muslims, and declining European birthrates. Those things together added up to “white genocide,” the gunman believed, adding that he considered himself as eco-fascist and green nationalist.
“In response to a serious ongoing firearms incident in Christchurch all Christchurch schools have been placed into lockdown,” New Zealand police wrote on Twitter early on. “Police urge anyone in central Christchurch to stay off the streets and report any suspicious behaviour immediately to 111.” Police also wrote, “Police are currently responding to reports of shots fired in central Christchurch at around 1:40 p.m. Armed police have been deployed.”
Police also wrote that the situation was not contained: “A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter. Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.” They later took the suspects into custody though. The video only shows one gunman.
Stuff reported that the gunman might have scrawled the names of other attackers on his rifle, including Alexandre Bissonette and Luca Traini. Bissonnette killed six people in a Quebec mosque. Traini targeted North African migrants in Italy.
The Sydney Morning Herald said the hospital was told to prepare for between 40 and 50 people. According to RNZ, a New Zealand radio outlet, an eyewitness reported seeing four people “lying on the ground,” and commented: “there was blood everywhere.”
2. The Gunman Was Wearing a Helmet & Military Style Jacket, Reports Say
Witnesses told RadioNZ that the shooter entered during afternoon prayers and was wearing “a helmet and glasses and a military style jacket.” One reporter indicated that eight people were admitted to Christchurch-area hospitals. Another witness told Stuff the gunman used up two magazines and described that there were “bodies all over me.”
The situation is very fluid, and authorities have yet to confirm details, such as motive or how many people were wounded or killed. Early details can be wrong in fast-breaking active shooter situations.
Sam Clarke, a reporter with TVNZ, told Al Jazeera that the gunman had a machine gun.
“A gunman – dressed in black with a helmet carrying a machine gun – came into the back of the mosque and started firing into the people praying there,” said Clarke, according to Al Jazeera. He described “many people had been hit, some as young as 16.”
He told the news site that about 10-15 people were seen outside the mosque with “some alive, some dead.”
Tarrant is a native of Grafton, Australia, where he worked in fitness before traveling the world when his father died. His manifesto says that he became radicalized on those travels as he saw what he believed to be a decay in European culture and heard about terrorist attacks. He stated in the disturbing document that he had been planning the attack for two years and chose New Zealand about three months before that point.
3. There Were Reports of Women Shot & Terrifying Escapes
News Now reported that another witness described seeing three women “shot and bleeding on the ground outside the mosque.” He escaped by leaping over a wall, the site reported.
Muhammad Nazir, a witness, told Stuff that he heard people yelling “help” and believed the gunman was positioned outside the mosque while firing inside it. There were several hundred people inside the mosque at the time.
The BBC reported that police were describing the shooting as a “critical incident.”
Another witness told ABC.net.au, “I heard a big sound of the gun. And a second one, I ran. Lots of people were sitting on the floor. I ran behind the mosque.”
4. A Cricket Team Escaped the Mosque Shooting Unharmed & an Elderly Man Died a Hero
The Bangladesh cricket team was at the mosque during the shooting but escaped unharmed.
There were also unconfirmed social media reports of a second shooting at a Linwood mosque, News Now reported. Another witness reported hearing about 20 shots being fired, the site reported. The New Zealand site Stuff reported that the shooter was a man armed with an automatic rifle.
The first victim named by family was Daoud Nabi. His son told NBC News that Nabi died a hero, placing himself in front of another worshipper when the gunman showed up at the mosque. You can read a tribute to Nabi here.
The other victims’ names have not yet been released, but Nabi was described as a man who helped refugees.
5. Schools Were on Lockdown in Christchurch
Local schools were on lock down. So were city buildings. “Christchurch City Council is locking down its central city buildings as police urge people in the area to stay indoors as they deal with a shooting at the Christchurch Mosque,” the city wrote in a statement.
“Dear Parents,” read a Facebook message from Ilan school. “We are aware of reports of shooting at a central Christchurch Mosque. All children at Ilam School are safe and we have no concerns for their safety. We are not in Lockdown mode currently. We will update you if our situation changes. If you have any concerns for your child please feel free to collect them from school.”
St. Margaret’s College wrote, “This is to advise all parents and families that St Margaret’s College is currently in a lock down situation following an incident in the centre of Christchurch. All students are safe and those who are on the Climate Strike have been taken to a safe area by the staff accompanying them. Please do not try and contact the school as the phones are currently closed. Please check the SMC web site or Facebook for further information which we will post as soon as we receive it.”
This article is being updated as more is known about the Christchurch mosque shooting.