A homeless man who allegedly shot dead two women and seriously wounded a third in a New Zealand welfare office was arrested yesterday after a seven-hour manhunt.
The man, who police named as Russell John Tully, is accused of entering the Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) office in the South Island town of Ashburton mid-morning and targeting workers.
The balaclava-clad 48-year-old, who locals said “had an axe to grind” with the agency, allegedly carried out the attack with a sawed-off shotgun before leaving on a bicycle.
The small town was locked down as about 100 heavily armed police scoured the area, with the suspect eventually tracked down at a property next to a nearby lake.
Police Superintendent Gary Knowles said no officers were injured, but the suspect received dog bites while he was being arrested.
“Nothing will give the families that have lost their loved ones closure, but the community can go to sleep tonight with the thought that the person who we believe may be responsible is in custody,” Knowles told reporters.
The injured worker was reported to be hospitalized in a serious, but stable, condition.
New Zealand’s Public Service Association, the union which covers WINZ employees, said it was arranging counseling and support for staff at the Ashburton office.
“That two people have died and one more is in a serious condition is inexcusable, and we hope the police can bring the shooter to justice,” association national secretary Richard Wagstaff said. “Nobody should go to work in fear that they might not return home.”
The Ashburton Guardian newspaper reported last month that Tully, who returned to New Zealand after working as a miner in Australia, had recently become homeless and was living in a tent by the river.
It said he had approached a large number of local agencies, including WINZ, for help finding accommodation.
Police said the charges he is to face have not been finalized.