FIVE people including a three-month-old baby have now been confirmed dead in the aftermath of horrific events that took place in Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city, last Friday.
It was about 1.30pm that day when a maroon Commodore began doing doughnuts outside Flinders Street station before driving down the busy Bourke Street pedestrian mall, deliberately striking people, while others ran for their lives.
According to ABC, witnesses said the driver, 26-year-old Dimitrious “Jimmy” Gargasoulas, drove without hesitation and his maneuvers sent “people flying like skittles”.
He was eventually stopped when police shot him in the arm.
— bwadamson (@BWAdamson) January 20, 2017
Thirty-seven men, women and children have been treated since the accident and some remain in critical condition.
The victims of the rampage included 10-year-old Thalia Hakin, 22-year-old Jessica Mudie and 33-year-old Matthew Si.
A 25-year-old man and a three-month-old boy are yet to be named.
Media conference: Bourke Street incident https://t.co/2mw5rlHUTa
— RCH Melbourne (@RCHMelbourne) January 20, 2017
As floral tributes continue to flood the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets, reports have emerged that police had tailed the man for at least two hours before the deadly rampage but called off their pursuit because of the risk to the public.
— Brianna Travers (@briannatravers) January 22, 2017
A police helicopter was used to monitor him until he could be intercepted in a safe spot.
Police union secretary told The Age it was a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario for police on Friday.
However the paper also quoted a high-ranking police officer who said:
“A lot of them feel they are being asked to do their job with one arm tied behind their back. It’s easy to be an expert in hindsight, but there’s a lot of cops who think more could have been done to stop him getting into the city.”
The ABC also quoted another police officer who said, “There was ample opportunity to stop him in the two hours before he reached the city, but the order was not to pursue.”
Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton told a press conference that Gargasoulas was well known to police.
He was released by a bail justice against the wishes of police on Jan 14 for the alleged assault of his mother’s partner.
It is also alleged that he stabbed his brother in the early hours of Friday morning.
— 7 News Queensland (@7NewsQueensland) January 23, 2017
The Herald Sun detailed some of the rambling and angry threats he left on Facebook in the days leading up to the tragedy.
“I DECLARE WAR ON TYRANNY TODAY YOU DOGS WILL HAVE THE OPTION TO EITHER BELIEVE IN ME … STAY FAITHFUL TO ME … OR SERVE THE ONE WHO ENSLAVES YOU AT HIS FEET,” he wrote.
In another crazed post, he wrote: “I AM KING OF KINGS GOD HIMSELF IN A HUMANBODILY (sic) FORM.”
The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced Monday there would be a shake-up of bail laws in the wake of the attack.
He told The Australian:
“We are sad, we are angry and we are resolute in making the changes that need to be made to learn from this and to honour that three month old baby and to honour all of those who have lost their lives here and to honour those who have had their lives forever changed.
“If changes are needed to be made, based on the facts, they will be made, and resources will not be an issue, expense will not be an issue. If reform and change needs to be made, be in no doubt it will be made.’’
The incident rocked Melbourne, which was packed with visitors attending the Australian Open. As hundreds came to Bourke Street to leave flowers, they told 7 Yahoo News of their grief and shock:
“People minding their own business, what’s this world coming to?” said one woman.
While another woman, in tears, said, “People can’t even come into town without wondering whether their child’s pram is going to be struck by some maniac.”
The Victorian Government will establish a fund to help families whose loved ones died.
A public vigil is being Monday evening at Federation Square.