Main suspect in New Zealand shootings that killed 49 appears in court – The Washington Post


KEY DEVELOPMENTS

• The primary suspect the Friday’s deadly shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, appeared in court on Saturday. Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, smirked to the cameras and made a white power gesture from the dock. Authorities have two more suspects in custody.

• New Zealand’s leader vows its “gun laws will change.” Suspect had license to carry the types of guns used in deadly attacks. According to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, investigators at the scene of the shootings that left 49 dead found five guns allegedly used by the primary suspect: Two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm.

• A live video that appeared to be of one of the shootings was streamed on Facebook and uploaded to other sites like Twitter and YouTube, raising questions about the role social media plays in radicalization.

• Police also said they were investigating a 74-page manifesto that had been left behind after the shooting and that railed against Muslims and immigrants and cites other right-wing extremists who have committed mass acts of violence.

• President Trump on Friday said he had not seen the manifesto, but did not believe white nationalism is a rising global threat, adding, “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing.”

FULL STORY

Manacled and barefoot, the 28-year-old Australian, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, walked into a Christchurch, New Zealand, court on Saturday and flashed an “OK” — widely seen as a symbol of white power — as he stood to face murder charges less than 24 hours after an attack on two mosques in the city left at least 49 people dead.

Police have named Tarrant the primary suspect in the Friday attack that was one of the deadliest shootings in New Zealand’s history. Two others have been arrested in connection with the shootings: A second man, 18-year old Daniel John Burrough, was scheduled to appear in court later Saturday and face charges of inciting racial hositility or ill will. A third accomplice remained unidentified.

During his hearing, which was closed to the public by Judge Paul Keller in the interest of safety — an unusual move for New Zealand courts — Tarrant did not enter a plea to the murder charge. He will remain in custody and appear for another hearing set for April 5, while further charges are likely.

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Dressed in white prison clothes, Tarrant was silent throughout his hearing and smirked to the press, according to the New Zealand Herald. Photos from the courtroom showed him standing in the dock, flanked by two police officers, making an “OK” gesture that is widely seen as signifying white power.

Local hospital officials said mid-day Saturday that 39 people, including 2 children, remained hospitalized, with 11 in critical condition.

None of the three individuals had criminal records in Australia or New Zealand, or were on security watch lists, said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who vowed as the country’s “gun laws will change” as a result of the massacre.

Ardern said New Zealand has suffered an “extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” lamenting in particular that the violence targeted the country’s immigrant population. “They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home,” she said. “They are us.”

The killing spree touched a nerve around the world. President Trump, in a statement issued Friday morning, extended his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand. Later Friday, Trump said he does not believe white nationalism is a rising global danger. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems,” he said.

The shooter broadcast the attack, which appeared live on social media platforms and was watched repeatedly across the globe. As media companies removed the video, which showed multiple people hit by gunfire, viewers found ways to repost it elsewhere.

Video of the shooting begins with the gunman driving to the mosque clad in tactical gear, his car full of weapons. It shows the shooting from his perspective — a chilling record of mass violence that police have warned people not to share. The shooter fires hundreds of rounds of bullets inside and outside Al Noor Mosque, where the majority of the bloodshed occurred, retreating at one point to his car for another weapon. He doubles back on injured victims to make sure they are dead. The violence lasts about six minutes.

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Witnesses at the mosque in Linwood said further bloodshed was averted when a caretaker jumped on the gunman and wrestled away his weapon, forcing him to flee, local media reported.

Twitter said it has suspended the account where the links first appeared and was “proactively working to remove the video content from the service,” according to a spokesman. Facebook “quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video” as soon as the social media company was alerted by police, spokeswoman Mia Garlick said in a statement. “We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware.”

The aggregation and discussion website Reddit was also “actively monitoring the situation” and removing “content containing links to the video stream,” a spokesman told The Post.

In a 74-page manifesto released online ahead of the attacks, Tarrant promised to kill Muslims and “directly reduce immigration rates.” In the manifesto, Tarrant said he intended to deepen strife in the United States over gun ownership and the Second Amendment. He also expressed his admiration for other white nationalists who had committed mass shootings.

In his manifesto, he wrote in all capital letters “Why won’t somebody do something?” He added: “Why don’t I do something?”

He decided to “commit to force. To commit to violence,” he wrote.

Nour Tavis, who was at the mosque and escaped after someone smashed a window in the building’s exterior, said the shooter turned his gun on everyone he could find inside.

“Everyone,” Tavis told the New Zealand Herald, in tears. “Young people, old man, old woman.”

Tavis said he saw the man shoot a friend’s 5-year-old daughter.

Health officials said 48 patients, including both young children and adults, were treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital.

Ardern said that the suspect had used five guns in total, two semi-automatic rifles and two shotguns, as well as a level-action firearm. He had a license for the guns that he acquired in November 2017; he began purchasing the weapons that December, she said.

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She vowed to spearhead an effort to change the country’s gun laws, which are more stringent than they are in the United States, but not as strict as regulations in Australia and much of Europe.

“I can tell you right now our gun laws will change,” she said. “Now is the time.”

Tarrant’s manifesto was littered with conspiracy theories about white birthrates and “white genocide.” It was the latest sign that a lethal vision of white nationalism has spread internationally. Its title, “The Great Replacement,” echoed the title of a book by a far-right French polemicist, as well as the rallying cry of, among others, the torch-bearing protesters who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.

In a country of nearly 5 million, more than 46,000 residents are Muslim, according to data from the 2013 Census, up 28 percent from 2006.

Members of a refugee family who had fled Syria’s civil war appeared to be among the victims, Ali Akil, an Auckland-based spokesman for Syrian Solidarity New Zealand, said in an interview. The family’s father was killed, a son was seriously wounded, and another son was reported missing, Akil said, citing information he had received from a friend of the family.

Akil said the family had likely come to New Zealand in the past four or five years, to “a safe haven, only to be killed here.”

Prime Minister Ardern said New Zealand was chosen for the attack “because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values.” Addressing those responsible for the attack directly, she said: “You may have chosen us. But we utterly reject and condemn you.”

Isaac Stanley-Becker, Eli Rosenberg and Alex Horton in Washington contributed to this report.





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