Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Home Front: Shooting in Melb

When I came home from work Monday night (6/6/17) a couple of months ago now I walked down the dark street to my car, before driving to collect my littlest one from after-school care, secure in the knowledge that I was probably the scariest thing walking the streets of my green-leafy, upmarket suburb. The fact that there was a helicopter holding station not far away didn't bother me in the slightest. We live near a major highway and there are often accidents. They didn't have a spotlight going so I figured they weren't looking for anyone, nor were they in a search pattern, but were just hovering at altitude. After I collected my little one they were still up there, so I cheerfully pointed them out and she asked if they were chasing robbers. I replied I didn't think so, and we headed home.
Dinner was hot out of the oven and we sat down to lasagna and cartoons, with candles just for the hell of it. Halfway through the second episode of The Croods, a loud pop got our attention. We thought it might have been one of the candles, and gave it little further thought. About twenty minutes later our eldest daughter, media savvy Mz19, burst in from her Overwatch gaming saying, "There's been a shooting in Bay Street, it's on the news". We scrambled for our devices and checked. The last time someone had said "Turn on the news!" like that had been on 11th September, 2001. The news that was unfolding was that in our quiet, little, rich old retirement home suburb of Brighton, a hostage situation had ben unfolding.

We had missed the drama in its entirety, apart from the buzzing helo, by virtue of the fact that our slow-cooking Lasagna had needed nothing from the Coles supermarket down the street. I had turned left instead of right, so had missed the police cordon and shootout.

A Melbourne man, who was later named by Chanel 7 News as Yacqub Khayre, a young Somali refugee, had booked an escort from an escort agency, and had shot and killed an Australian national born in China who was the clerk at an apartment complex. The escort had been tied up and taken hostage and the gunman also placed a call to Chanel 7, in which he made a declaration on behalf of ISIS. Police were alerted by Chanel 7 and reports of an explosion at the apartments, and responded rapidly. The area was cordoned off, locals were instructed to stay in their homes, and foot traffic was directed to the local Coles supermarket.
The ensuing two-hour siege ended when the gunman emerged and began firing at police with an illegal  sawed-off shotgun. Two officers were injured in the hand and one in the neck. “Fortunately they are okay,” reported Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton. “Two of them are currently at hospital. One was treated at the scene and [the others] are still going under medical treatment. They are non-life-threatening [injuries] which is what we’re grateful about.”
Khayre was killed at the scene. Twenty to thirty shots were reported, with some new sources reporting it as "like machine gun fire." Given the solid professional reputation of the Victorian State Police, especially their SWAT-equivalent Special Operations Group, I was filled with relief that not only had they gotten the bad guy but that we, two blocks away, were never in any danger of him having gotten away and interfering with our quiet evening. As the saying goes. "Don't mess with Victorian cops, and especially don't mess with the SOGgies!" The hostage was released, distressed but unharmed.

As it turns out, the gunman was known to police already and was on a terror watch list. Yacqub Khayre had faced court in 2009 over a plot to bomb a Sydney army base. He was acquitted of these charges, but was later convicted on other violent offenses. Reportedly it was a clumsy plan, hatched in Melbourne in 2009, which, if successful, could have lead to the deaths of many Australian soldiers at Sydney’s Holsworthy army base. A 2010 trial revealed that Khayre had traveled to Somalia to look for clerics to give their blessing for the plan. His legal team had argued that he was looking for religious enlightenment and harbored no plan to wage jihad in Australia.Three other men were convicted over the plot to open fire on service people with high-powered weapons. The response by the counterterrorist branches has been comforting and  reassuring and as yet, no solid links have been released to the public.
"At the scene, when this person first arrived there, a man was shot, we believe, by the gunman," Victoria Police Commissioner Graham Ashton revealed on Tuesday morning. “He was an employee of the serviced apartments, so he appears to have been in the wrong place at, unluckily, the wrong time.” It has also been supposed that the incident was contrived in a bid to lure the police to the Bay Street complex, which it did, thankfully to a fairly mediocre end result.

Commissioner Ashton also told Channel 7 news, “Nothing thus far will suggest to us that this was planned or done in concert with others." Asked if he believed the gunman lured police to ambush and kill officers, Mr Ashton said, “It’s a possibility (but) we don’t know whether that was the case. Certainly a booking was made to see an escort at the premises. He then turned up at the premises with a firearm. That’s all been weighed into the calculations but we haven’t found anything like a note or any comment around that so far." Counterterrorism police have investigated Khayre's background, with enquries ongoing. The crime scene has been handed over to the coroner with homicide police assisting with the investigation, Commissioner Ashton added.

So the mystery of the hovering helo and the strange dinner time pop had been solved, our parents had been rung and reassured that nothing was amiss, and we bundled off to bed. I locked the screen door and fitted the extra latches, mostly so I didn't "accidentally" open the door, tomahawk in hand, and end up face to face with a SOG patrol if they decided to go door to door, rather than out of any particular fear of late night Jihadist door-knockers.
Tonight I stepped off my train from work and came face to face with a couple of strapping lads from the Protective Services branch who were on duty at my station. I was very pleased to see them. It's reassuring that we have patrols at the stations at night, which can be dark and lonely places, especially in light of our little local excitement the day before. This service had been ongoing for  number of months now. It's not a knee-jerk and North Brighton where I live isn't especially needful of it, but it's reassuring all the same.
I had an email from my daughters school, letting us all know about counseling services available if needed, which was also really nice. A couple of good links for helping kids with coping with terrorism are here:

Given we don't watch TV news as a general rule and we didn't witness anything directly, the only thing my little one was exposed to was an always-exciting helicopter in the night sky.
So in closing, even though he himself claimed it and the Daesh-heads themselves then claimed it, I think this was more a case of chip-on-shoulder suicide by cop than anything more sinister. My sympathies for the family of the wrong-place wrong-time clerk, and the now-named and publicly shamed gunman's family, and of course, the injured officers. I hope their scars earn them free drinks at the pub for years to come. Lastly and certainly not least, spare a thought for the traumatized escort who was held hostage by the dead asshole. I wish her a speedy recovery and many easy-to-work-with and big-tipping clients in the future.

Congratulations asshole, you murdered a bell-hop and brutalized a sex worker. You're not a martyred soldier, you're barely even a season ending episode of SVU.
We're not terrorized, we're barely even annoyed.


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