MELBOURNE, Australia – A man who was out on parole was arrested after fatally shooting four men and wounding a woman in an hour-long downtown rampage on June 4 in the northern Australian city of Darwin, police said.
Police did not reveal a motive for the shotgun attack, but ruled out terrorism.
It was Australia’s third mass shooting since the country introduced tough gun laws in response to a 1996 massacre in which a lone gunman armed with two semi-automatic assault rifles killed 35 people in Tasmania state. Mass shootings are usually defined as those resulting in at least four deaths excluding the shooter.
In Tuesday’s rampage, four men were killed and a woman was wounded at five places around Darwin, said Northern Territory Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw.
The 45-year-old suspect was released from prison on parole in January and was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet, Kershaw said. Police did not say why he had been in prison or whether the bracelet helped police arrest him.
“He is an individual who’s well known to police and has a number of interactions adverse with the police,” Kershaw said.
The woman who was wounded did not have serious injuries, he said.
The Health Department had earlier said two people were taken to a hospital with gunshot wounds and both were in stable condition. It was not immediately clear if the second victim had been injured in an unrelated shooting.
Kershaw said the man was arrested after he contacted a senior police officer. An Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) reporter said she saw police tackle and taser the gunman at a busy intersection.
Kershaw did not explain why the suspect was being held under police guard in a hospital. The suspect had yet to be charged.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner described the incident as an “incredibly difficult night.”
“This is not the Darwin we know,” Gunner said. “This may be an event you prepare for, but this is never an event you want to respond to.”
Witnesses described the shooter using a pump action shotgun to fire multiple blasts at the Palms Hotel and Buffalo Club. A victim was killed at each. Kershaw confirmed that the suspect was armed with a shotgun, but could not confirm what type.
Pump action shotguns have been virtually banned from private ownership in Australia along with other rapid-fire weapons under the country’s tough gun laws designed to prevent mass shootings.
ABC also reported that one of the victims was Michael Sisosis, originally from the island of Kalymnos, Greece. A roofer and avid fisherman, Sisois, 57, was killed at the Buff Club in Stuart Park shortly after 6 pm.
He had immigrated from Kalymnos to Darwin in 1970 with his parents and six siblings.
Sisosis’ nephew Charlie Maillis told ABC, “Michael was a much-loved son, brother and uncle. He loved and adored his nephews and his nieces like they were his own. Our family would like to send our condolences to all the families who’ve been affected in this tragic and selfish event. Michael will never be forgotten and will forever be in our hearts until we meet again. Love you heaps, uncle.”
Jenny Katsotourhis, a friend of the family, said that since January Sisois had “worked with his alleged killer Benjamin Hoffmann as a roofer,” ABC reported, adding that “Sisois had befriended him, he had been friends with him for quite a while, [but] he hadn’t been friends with him for many, many years because [Hoffmann] was in prison.”
She told ABC, “Sisois… was an excellent man of great reputation. He would’ve given anyone the shirt off his back, and that’s contributed to this.”
ABC also reported that this is not the first time the Sisois family has been affected by gun violence, noting that “in 1987, Mr. Sisois’s sister, Niki Voukelatous, was shot dead in Blackburn South in Victoria.”
Sisois’ brother Vince, told ABC, “We lost a second member now in this family in the same manner… We’re good citizens, we’re hard workers… two people from my family [killed who] come here for a normal life, not to leave our bodies here before [our time].”
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)