| A student talks to a police officer after a shooting at the Clayton campus of Monash University in Melbourne on Monday. (Reuters)
Melbourne, Oct. 21 (Reuters): A man armed with several handguns walked into an Australian university lecture room today, shot dead two students and wounded five before he was overpowered by the victims’ classmates, police said.
The two dead, both males, were Asian in appearance and the shooting came amid heightened nervousness in Australia a week after bombs killed 180 tourists, many from Australia, in Bali. “We’ve confirmed now that there are two men of Asian appearance both dead,” police constable Craig Sharkie said.
“There are a further five that have been taken by both air and road ambulance to various hospitals around Melbourne.” A student, 21-year-old Michelle Button, said the gunman was also of Asian appearance.
Police said a man had been taken into custody and was being questioned over the shooting on the sixth floor of a building at the Monash University campus on the outskirts of Australia’s second largest city.
There was no indication of a possible motive, although police superintendent Trevor Parks said it was unlikely to be an act of terrorism. “It would appear at this stage that it is not an incident that would be related to any sort of terrorist activity,” Parks said. Parks said students who tackled the gunman had probably averted a much higher death toll.
“The students who actually tackled this person have done a tremendous job and I think we’ve been saved from further... death or injury because there were a number of handguns present in the classroom,” Parks said. “If he hadn’t been tackled I think we would have had an absolutely tragic circumstance on our hands,” he said. An ambulance spokeswoman had earlier said eight people had been injured, some suffering shotgun wounds. Sharkie said the only weapons used had been handguns.
The dead and injured were all students, Monash vice-chancellor Peter Darvall told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio. A female student identified only as Samara said she had been waiting for an Indonesian language exam on a floor below when the shooting broke out.
“We just heard these horrific screams and it was just devastating,” Samara told Melbourne radio 3AW. “We just heard someone go: ‘Oh my God, oh my God, get out, help me, help me, get out’. We just ran straight out,” she said.
“After what has happened in Bali our first thought was that there was a bomb scare,” 20-year-old arts student Claire Fricke told Reuters. “It wasn’t until we got outside that someone told us that people had been shot.”
Monash University has six campuses in Australia as well as one each in Malaysia and South Africa. “We’re being inundated from all over the world with calls from concerned family who have students at Monash,” police spokesman Sharkie said.
The shootings occurred inside the Robert Menzies Building, part of the arts faculty at the Monash University campus around 20 km outside the city centre. Two of the injured — a man in his 20s and another man in his 30s — were in serious condition.
Australia’s worst massacre of modern times was in 1996, when lone gunman Martin Bryant shot dead 35 people in the tourist town and former penal colony of Port Arthur in Tasmania.