SYDNEY (AP) – A knife-wielding man with a history of mental illness is suspected of slaying a woman in a downtown Sydney apartment before wounding another woman nearby and attempting to stab other people yesterday, police and witnesses said.
Police have not labelled the rampage an act of terrorism, although the 21-year-old assailant – who was restrained by members of the public before being arrested – had collected information on his computer about mass killings in North America and New Zealand, New South Wales state Police Commissioner Michael Fuller said.
“It is not currently classed as a terrorist incident. Obviously as the investigation continues we will reassess that,” Fuller told reporters.
“He is by definition, at the moment, a lone actor. Information was found on him that would suggest he has some ideologies in relation to terrorism, but he has no links to terrorism,” Fuller said.
“There was certainly information found on him about other crimes of mass casualties and mass deaths around the world.”
A gunman who recently killed 22 people at a Texas Walmart appears to have praised the March 15 shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, where an Australian white supremacist is charged with killing 51 worshippers at two mosques.
Witnesses said the assailant yesterday was carrying a 30-centimetre knife and attempted to stab multiple people near a busy intersection in Australia’s largest city at around 2pm. Fuller described the weapon as a butcher’s knife.
Police said a man was arrested, and that a 41-year-old woman with a stab wound to her back was taken to a hospital in stable condition. Police also said the body of a 21-year-old woman was later discovered in a nearby fourth-floor apartment.
“A number of members of the public physically restrained the offender,” Police Superintendent Gavin Wood said. “I want to acknowledge those members of the public who got involved. They were significantly brave people.”
Video showed that people pinned the man to the pavement on his back with a plastic milk crate over his head and two chairs over his body.
Wood said it appeared that the attack was unprovoked. The man “attempted to stab multiple people. Those attempts, thankfully, were unsuccessful”, Wood said.
Uber driver Leon Baghani said the assailant, clutching a knife, jumped on the hood and then the roof of his Mercedes as he was driving an elderly couple on the street where the violence occurred.
“For a second, I thought maybe he’s wearing a vest of some sort and he’s going to detonate himself,” Baghani told Ten Network television. “So I quickly accelerated and made a left turn and made sure that he came off the roof of the car.”