'Run, run, run': Chaos at a Sydney mall as 6 people stabbed to death, and the suspect fatally shot

SYDNEY (AP) — A man stabbed six people to death at a busy Sydney shopping center Saturday before he was fatally shot, police said, with hundreds fleeing the chaotic scene, many weeping as they carried their children. Eight people, including a 9-month-old, were injured.

New South Wales police said they believed a 40-year-old man was responsible for the Saturday afternoon attack at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Bondi Junction, in the city’s eastern suburbs and not far from the world-famous Bondi Beach. They said they were not able to name him until a formal identification had taken place but that they weren't treating the attack as terrorism-related.

The man was shot dead by a police inspector after he turned and raised a knife, New South Wales Assistant Police Commissioner Anthony Cooke told reporters.

“This all happened very, very quickly — the officer that was in the vicinity attended on her own, was guided to the location of the offender by people who were in the center," he said. “She took the actions that she did saving a range of people’s lives."

The attack at the shopping center, one of the country's busiest and which was a hub of activity on a particularly warm fall afternoon, began around 3:10 p.m. and police were swiftly called.

“They just said run, run, run — someone’s been stabbed,” one witness told ABC TV in Australia. ”(The attacker) was walking really calmly like he was having an ice cream in a park. And then he went up the escalators ... and probably within about a minute we heard three gunshots.”

Six of the victims — five women and a man — and the suspect died. The officer conducted CPR on the attacker until the arrival of paramedics, who also worked on the man.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the eight injured people were being treated at hospitals. The baby was in surgery, but it was too early to know the condition, she said.

“We are confident that there is no ongoing risk, and we are dealing with one person who is now deceased,” Webb said in a later briefing. "It’s not a terrorism incident.”

Witnesses were shocked at the rare outburst of violence. Australia enacted strict gun laws after a man killed 35 and wounded another 23 in 1996, in Tasmania.

“I saw all the people running and I didn’t know what was happening," said Ayush Singh. “I thought it was some people playing a prank or something and after some time I saw a guy with a knife running from the footpath to the cafe where I work.”

He said police arrived quickly and told everyone to stay put.

Singh said he saw the man running just meters (yards) away as he wielded a knife. “I didn’t hear him say anything,” he added. "Just a random guy stabbing people. Mad guy.”

Video footage shared online appears to show a man confronting the attacker on an escalator in the shopping center by holding what appeared to be a post towards him.

Roi Huberman, a sound engineer at ABC TV in Australia, told the network that he sheltered in a store during the incident.

“And suddenly we heard a shot or maybe two shots and we didn’t know what to do,” he said. “Then the very capable person in the store took us to the back where it can be locked. She then locked the store and then she then let us through the back and now we are out.”

As the attack unfolded, panicked individuals streamed out of the shopping center, many with children in their arms. Paramedics treated injured people at the scene. The shopping center and the surrounding area remains in lockdown as police piece together what went on.

“This was a horrific act of violence indiscriminately targeted at innocent people going about a normal Saturday, doing their shopping,” said Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

“Today Bondi Junction was the scene of horrific violence, but it was also witness to the humanity and the heroism of our fellow Australians, our brave police, our first responders, and of course our everyday people who could never have imagined that they would face such a moment,” he added.

The most senior members of Britain’s royal family, who are also royals in Australia, expressed their shock and sadness over the stabbings.

King Charles III said he and his wife Queen Camilla were “utterly shocked and horrified” by the “senseless attack” in Sydney and that their “hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those who have been so brutally killed.” The king’s eldest son Prince William and his wife Catherine, Princess of Wales, said they too were “shocked and saddened” and that their thoughts are with those affected and the “heroic emergency responders who risked their own lives to save others.”

Pope Francis also expressed his sadness at the “senseless tragedy” in Sydney, offering his “spiritual closeness” to all those affected and prayers for the dead and injured. The message was contained in a telegram to Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher and sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state.


Associated Press writers Pan Pylas in London and Colleen Barry in Milan contributed to this report.