Four men are dead and a woman remains in hospital after a gunman went on a rampage across Darwin late on Tuesday.
Some of the victims had been winding down for the afternoon – watching TV, at the pub, at a hotel – when, seemingly randomly and unexpectedly, they were shot dead.
The lone gunman, identified as local man Ben Hoffmann, shattered Darwin’s tropical tranquility as he drove from location to location in the city, armed with a pump-action shotgun.
Known as Hoffy by friends, Mr Hoffman, 45, is an outlaw motorcycle club member who had been released on parole in January.
Over the course of about an hour from 5.45pm on Tuesday, four men were allegedly killed in cold blood at four locations, in what has been described as the worst mass killing in Darwin’s recent past.
On Wednesday, police will piece together further details and the chronology of the shocking attack, which they said was not terrorism related.
Witnesses say the murder spree started at the Palms Motel in Woolner where multiple shots were fired as the Caucasian shooter wearing high-vis moved from door to door.
One man was found dead at the motel before the suspect left in a white dual-cab ute.
The shooter then went to the nearby Buffalo Club, where police say a body of a man was found in the car park.
At a third location in Jolly Street, Woolner, a witness described the horrifying death of his housemate to The Northern Territory News.
Johnny Reid and his mate had been watching TV at their worksite unit when the door was knocked down about 6pm, bringing them face-to-face with a man with a shotgun in hand.
“He busted in and looked right at me,” he told The NT News.
“I looked at him and thought: ‘f–k, 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.”
A fourth grisly discovery was made in a suburb called The Gardens, where witnesses settling in for the night also told of hearing multiple shots. One man was reportedly killed and a woman injured.
The shooter also tried to enter the Peter McCauley Centre police station, possibly to hand himself in. He then phoned a duty superintendent who did a “magnificent job in negotiating with him” before the arrest, Northern Territory Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said.
As swarms of police combed the Darwin CBD, the alleged killer was eventually arrested at the busy Stuart Highway and McMinn Street intersection, near where the shootings occurred.
Television footage showed him on the ground after being dragged from under his white dual-cab ute, kicking his legs at officers from NT Police’s Territory Response Group.
Police say the alleged shooter is an outlaw motorcycle gang member, well known to them. He has a criminal history, and the incident is not believed to be terror-related.
Commissioner Kershaw said the arrested man was released from prison on parole in January after serving at least a year. He had been wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet, and acted alone on Tuesday.
“He is an individual who is well known to police and has a number of interactions, adverse, with the police force,” he said.
“We’re still trying to establish the intent and the motivation behind this but all I can say is that, sadly, people have lost their lives this evening.”
The man is being held in custody in hospital.
Commissioner Reece Kershaw and Chief Minister Michael Gunner speak about the shooting incidents this evening.
Later on Tuesday, a group of about a dozen friends and relatives of the man who died at the Palms Hotel gathered outside, many in tears.
Local Matthew James helped save a woman who had been shot in the leg near the hotel.
An NT Health spokeswoman said that woman was in a stable condition in hospital.
“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’. She was hysterical obviously,” Mr James said.
The woman who had been shot told Mr James the shooter had gone from room to room, firing his gun and shouting the name of a man he wanted to find.
Chris Dalgleish, who was having a beer on the balcony of the Frontier Hotel pub across the road from the Palms, said people heard shots and raced inside the pub when they realised it was a gun.
“Everyone started jumping inside, then locking doors and windows and went to the back corner,” he said.
Speaking in London, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the shooting was a “terrible act of violence”.
“I just want to extend my deep condolences and sympathies to all the people in the Territory, and particularly in Darwin,” Mr Morrison said.
“This is a very tight community and I know they will be rocked by these events.”
I have been in contact with Chief Minister Gunner and understand this is not an act of terrorism and a person has been taken into custody. My thoughts are with Territorians and the tight-knit community in Darwin.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) June 4, 2019
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said it was a devastating day for the Territory, – and his thoughts were with the families and friends of the victims.
A stunned Mr Gunner told a late-night media conference: “This is not the Darwin we know”.
Deputy PM Michael McCormack also thanked emergency services for their response.
Awful news out of Darwin this evening.
Our thoughts are with those who have been killed, their families and friends.
Our appreciation to emergency services on the scene.
We await further details as to the circumstances surrounding this dreadful and tragic event.
— Michael McCormack (@M_McCormackMP) June 4, 2019
Witness John Rose told the ABC he saw the gunman walk into Palms Motel on Darwin’s Esplanade 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.”
“Once he left we went in and found one gentleman. He’s over there. We pulled him out,” Mr Rose said.
“This lady turned up and started screaming, and we didn’t realise there was another person in there … apparently he’s dead. He’s been shot.”
Early media reports said police had responded to an “active shooter situation” the inner suburbs of Stuart Park and Woolner, during which a man was using a shotgun.
Earlier, police closed roads in Woolner as they searched for an offender, described as armed and dangerous, who allegedly shot a woman at a Darwin hotel.
Reports an active shooter in Darwin CBD with up to 20 shots fired and people injured … confusing scenes with tree on fire and roads blocked. pic.twitter.com/4WY2hVE2b3
— Stephanie Zillman (@Steph_Zillman) June 4, 2019
Witness Leah Potter told the ABC a woman was shot through her hotel room door at the Palms Motel on Darwin’s Esplanade about 6pm.
“I was in the car park [of a neighbouring hotel] when I heard what I thought were fireworks going off, really loud cracking, banging fireworks,” she said.
“Then a man came running with a woman in his arms from next door, which is the Palms Motel … and he just dropped her on the footpath right in front of us.
“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.”
Ms Potter said police were at a service station across the road for another issue, “so the boyfriend dropped the bleeding woman in front of us and he ran over to the Coles Express to get the police”.
She said the gunman had a pump-action shotgun and ran off down Finniss Street towards The Gardens.
“The boyfriend said that this man had arrived at their front door and shot through the front door, shot her through the front door,” Ms Potter said.
“There was lots of blood. She was crying but she was pretty quiet … I think maybe she was in a bit of shock.”
Another Facebook user said he saw a man shoot up the Palms Motel.
“We witnessed the man walk through the hotel shooting 10 times and then get into his truck and drive away,” John Rose wrote.
“This guy had a sawn-off pump-action shotgun.
“We watched him like 20 feet (6 metres) away calmly walk into the hotel room, shoot the door open and then proceeded to shoot up every room.”
— Stephanie Zillman (@Steph_Zillman) June 4, 2019