(AFP) – A gunman fired around five shots inside Canberra’s main airport Sunday, sending passengers fleeing but injuring no one before he was detained by Australian police.
Images posted on social media showed a police officer restraining a man on the ground inside the terminal as the emergency alarm sounded in the capital’s main airport.
“About 1:30 p.m. today (Sunday 14 August 2022) police were called to the Canberra Airport following reports of gunshots in the main terminal building,” the Australian Capital Police confirmed in an official statement.
“Shortly after one person was taken into custody and a firearm was recovered. CCTV has been reviewed and at this time the person in custody is believed to be the only person responsible for this incident,” they added, noting that the situation is now “contained” and initially ordering members of the public “not attend the Airport at this time.”
They said elsewhere that the motive behind the shooting was not immediately clear.
About 1:30pm today police were called to the Canberra Airport following reports of gunshots in the main terminal building. Shortly after, one person was taken into custody and a firearm was recovered. There is no immediate threat to public safety. Details: https://t.co/Eh4iLDeMwY pic.twitter.com/8LmZXycgCG
— ACT Policing (@ACTPolicing) August 14, 2022
The gunman entered the airport’s departures area in the early afternoon and sat close to the terminal’s large glass windows, Detective Acting Superintendent Dave Craft told reporters outside the building.
He added that the gunman waited five minutes before pulling out his firearm and “let off approximately five rounds”.
The airport was evacuated and locked down, leading to the suspension of flights, as previously mentioned, but normal operations resumed after the airport was re-opened later in the day — though some flights had been cancelled.
Craft said the crime scene indicated that the man had fired shots at the glass windows in the terminal.
No shots were directed at passengers or staff, he suggested.
Several apparent bullet impacts were visible on the glass front on the second floor of the airport, television images showed.
A woman identified only as Helen was quoted as telling The Guardian newspaper that she saw a man “shooting into the air” not far from the check-in counter, describing him as being middle-aged and “clean cut”.
After examining the airport’s closed-circuit television images, police said they believed the man had acted alone.
#EXCLUSIVE: Passengers ran for their lives as several shots were fired inside Canberra Airport this afternoon.
Immediately entering lockdown, the suspect was quickly arrested, and tonight remains in police custody.
— 9News Australia (@9NewsAUS) August 14, 2022
A journalist with Australian public broadcaster ABC, Lily Thomson, reported that she heard the shots before people started to scream.
She saw a fearful woman looking after a baby.
“So we all ran and I stayed with that grandma and her baby and hid behind an information desk,” Thomson reported on ABC.
“We stayed there for a couple of minutes until security told us to evacuate out to the car park,” she added.
“Everyone was hiding behind chairs and people were running.”
Another passenger who gave only her first name, Alison, told the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age newspapers that she saw the gunman.
“We were in security and heard the first gunshots. I turned around and there was a man standing with a pistol, like a small one, facing out towards the car drop-off,” she said.
“Someone yelled get down, get down and we just ran out of there.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had been briefed on the shooting incident.
“I am advised a man has been detained and there is no ongoing threat present,” the prime minister said in a statement.
See the damage caused to these windows by 3 gunshots fired at Canberra airport near check-in. Airport evacuated and big AFP presence as they sweep the entire terminal and interview the alleged shooter. pic.twitter.com/AdlOf3FWvd
— Fran Kelly (@frankelly08) August 14, 2022