Six people, including two young police officers, were shot dead at a property in rural Australia as police arrived to investigate reports of a missing person, authorities said on Tuesday.
Police said the violence began around 4:45pm on Monday when four police officers arrived at a remote property in the state of Queensland.
Authorities said at least two heavily armed assailants opened fire on officers in a rural setting in Wieambilla. Police returned fire, but two police officers were seriously injured and died on the spot, and a neighbor was also killed during the shootout.
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said that in this first shootout, a third police officer was dodged by a bullet and the fourth officer fled. She said it was a miracle that the two officers survived and one of them could set the alarm off.
“It seems to me that the officers had no chance, and I don’t know how the two of them survived,” Carroll said after visiting the scene. He said officers were shot in an open area in front of the house.
Police identified the officers killed as Officer Matthew Arnold, 26, and Rachel McCrow, 29. Arnold was sworn in as an officer in 2020 and McCrow in 2021.
The head of the Queensland Police Union, Ian Leavers, said the cops were being bombarded with bullets. He said that while an officer took cover in the tall grass, the criminals lit a fire to persuade him to come out.
“He actually believed he was going to be shot or burned alive,” Leavers told the Australian Broadcasting Company.
After the officer was able to raise the alarm, officials said a siege had developed at the facility, with specialist police officers and air support called in. Carroll said that 16 officers risked their lives while retrieving the bodies of the murdered officers. Pay attention to whether their colleagues are dead or alive.
Police said that just after 10:30 p.m., in the second major clash with the police, two men and a woman were killed and the violence ended. All three of those killed were considered guilty, Carroll said.
The commissioner could not hold back his tears as he spoke to the media.
“It’s an unimaginable tragedy,” Carroll said. “This has been incredibly sad and tragic for everyone, especially the family, the officers involved, colleagues, the organization and the community.”
He said many years have passed since multiple police officers from the Queensland service were killed during a single call.
“Losing two officers in one incident is absolutely devastating,” he said.
Carroll said local police acted on a request from authorities in the neighboring state of New South Wales to check on a person who was reported missing 12 months ago but had been in contact with people until recent days.
He said the investigation was ongoing and it was too early to say whether police had been pulled to the property. He said the 58-year-old neighbor may have arrived after seeing a fire on the property or hearing gunshots.
Those who left said that the murders meant executions.
“What happened yesterday is the murder of two police officers in cold blood,” he told reporters yesterday.
Carroll said the two police officers who were killed were very respected and loved.
“They were both determined and courageous young people with a passion for policing and serving their community,” Carroll said. “Both are under 30. They both had great careers and lives ahead of them.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it was “a heartbreaking day for the family and friends of the gruesome sights in Wieambilla and the Queensland Police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.”
“My condolences to all who are grieving tonight – Australia mourns with you,” Albanese said on Twitter.
An emergency statement for the Wiembilla area remained in effect Tuesday morning and a crime scene was created at the facility. The area is sparsely populated and has several large estates and gas fields.