6 dead, including 2 police officers ‘executed in cold blood’, in Australian ambush and shootout

6 dead, including 2 police officers ‘executed in cold blood’, in Australian ambush and shootout

6 dead, including 2 police officers ‘executed in cold blood’, in Australian ambush and shootout

Six people, including two junior police officers, were shot and killed on a property in rural Australia after officers who arrived to investigate reports of a missing person were ambushed, authorities said Tuesday.

Police said the violence began at around 4.45pm on Monday when four officers arrived at a remote property in the state of Queensland.

At least two heavily armed shooters opened fire on officers on rural Wieambilla property, authorities said. Police returned fire but two officers were seriously injured and died at the scene, and a neighbor was also killed in the firefight, police said.

Two out of six police officers killed in a gunfight in rural Australia
Police work near the scene of a fatal shooting, in which police shot multiple people on a remote Queensland property after an ambush in which two officers and a bystander were also killed, in Wieambilla, Australia on 13 December 2022.

AAP/Jason O’Brien Image via REUTERS

In that initial confrontation, a third officer was shot while the fourth escaped, Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said. She said it was a miracle that two officers survived and one managed to raise the alarm.

“In my opinion, the officers didn’t stand a chance, and I don’t know how two of them got out alive,” Carroll said after touring the scene. He said the officers were killed in an exposed area in front of the house.

Police identified the officers who were killed as officers Matthew Arnold, 26, and Rachel McCrow, 29. Arnold was sworn in as an officer in 2020 and McCrow in 2021.

Ian Leavers, the president of the Queensland Police Union, said officers came under a hail of gunfire.

“Two police officers were executed in cold blood,” he said.

She said that while an officer was taking cover in the tall grass, the offenders built a fire to try to get her out.

“She actually believed she was going to be shot or burned alive,” Leavers told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Officer Keeley Brough texted frantically to loved ones as suspects tried to get her out of the surrounding bushland where she was hiding, local media reported.

She was a police officer for just eight weeks, officials said.

After the officer was able to raise the alarm, authorities said a siege situation had developed on the property, with the intervention of specialized police officers and air support. Carroll said 16 officers risked their lives recovering the bodies of slain officers, unable to indicate whether their colleagues were dead or alive.

Just after 10.30pm, two men and a woman were killed in the second major clash with police, ending the violence, police said. Carroll said all three killed were considered offenders.

The commissioner held back tears as he spoke to the media.

“It’s an unimaginable tragedy,” Carroll said. “This has been incredibly painful and tragic for everyone, especially the family, officers involved, colleagues, the organization and the community.”

He said it had been many years since multiple Queensland Service Police officers had been killed on a single call.

“Losing two officers in an accident is absolutely devastating,” he said.

Carroll said local police were acting at the request of authorities in the neighboring state of New South Wales to look into a person who was reported missing up to 12 months ago but had been in contact with people up until a few days ago. .

He said the investigation was continuing and it was too soon to tell if police had been lured to the property. He said the 58-year-old neighbor may have arrived after seeing a fire on the property or hearing gunshots.

Carroll said the two officers killed were highly respected and well loved.

“They were both committed and courageous young men who had a passion for policing and serving their community,” Carroll said. “Both under 30. Both had wonderful careers and lives ahead of them.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters in Sydney the country was in mourning with those affected.

“This is, truly, a devastating day for all who loved these Australians, and our hearts go out to those in terrible pain,” he said. “We know this news has fallen hard on a close-knit and caring Queensland community. As well as, of course, the community to which all police officers belong.”

He said officers across the nation know the risks they face, but they are doing their duty.

“And today and every day, I pay tribute to each of the police officers who serve their local communities and who serve their nation,” Albanese said. “That’s not a price anyone wearing the uniform should ever pay.”

An emergency declaration for the Wieambilla area remained in effect Tuesday, and a crime scene was set up on the property. The area is sparsely populated and has several large estates and gas fields.

Queensland officials have ordered flags to be flown at half-mast in government buildings.

Gun violence is relatively rare in Australia, which he implemented tough gun laws after a gunman killed 35 people in 1996 at a cafe in Port Arthur.

AFP contributed to this report.

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