The gunman began shooting worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue, Riccarton, at around 1:40 pm. Police received the first emergency call at 1:41 pm. Between three and five hundred people may have been inside the mosque attending Friday Prayer at the time of the shooting. A neighbour of the mosque told reporters that he saw the gunman flee and drop what appeared to be a firearm in the driveway. The witness said the gunman appeared to be wearing military-style clothing.
The gunman spent several minutes inside the mosque, shooting attendees indiscriminately. He killed three people near the entrance, and many others inside a larger room. During the attack Naeem Rashid charged at the gunman but was shot; he later died in hospital. The gunman approached wounded victims, firing at them multiple times. He then left the mosque and fired on people outside. He went on to retrieve another weapon from his vehicle before returning to the mosque to murder more victims, many of whom were already wounded and unable to escape. The gunman then exited the mosque for a second time and killed a woman near the footpath as she pleaded for help. He returned to his car and fled the scene shortly thereafter, having spent about six minutes at the mosque. The gunman shot other civilians in the area and drove away at high speed, heading in the direction of the Linwood Islamic Centre.
Linwood Islamic Centre
A second series of shootings commenced at about 1:55 pm. at the Linwood Islamic Centre, a mosque 5 kilometres (3 mi) east from Al Noor. The gunman shot several people outside the mosque, killing seven.
The mosque's acting imam credited a worshipper named Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah with stopping the attack before the gunman could enter the building. Wahabzadah told media that he had taken a credit card reader and ran at the gunman hoping to distract him from attacking people in the mosque. When the gunman retreated, Wahabzadah threw the credit card reader at him. The gunman took a firearm from his car and fired at Wahabzadah, who took cover among nearby cars and retrieved an empty shotgun the gunman had dropped. The gunman continued firing at the mosque. When the gunman returned to his car again, Wahabzadah threw the shotgun and shattered a car window or the windscreen. The gunman then drove away.
The attack killed 50 people: 42 at Al Noor Mosque, seven at the Linwood Islamic Centre and one who died in Christchurch Hospital. The ages of those killed ranged from 2 to 71. From Police Commissioner Mike Bush's update, as of 10:00 am on 17 March 2019, 50 people were injured, 36 people were being treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, two of whom were in a serious condition, with one child at Starship children's hospital in Auckland. National futsal player and IT entrepreneur Atta Elayyan was among those killed.
In the wake of the attacks, dozens of people remain missing and several diplomatic offices and foreign ministries released statements concerning the number of victims from their nations. The police have requested missing people, or those listed as missing, to go online and register themselves as safe on the Restoring Family Links website, managed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. A list of missing people has been published by New Zealand Red Cross, and includes nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, announced that Naeem Rashid would be posthumously honoured with a national award for his courage during the Al Noor attack.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, is accused of carrying out the attack. Early reports indicated "a multiple, simultaneous attack", but later only a single suspect was implicated. He was arrested 36 minutes after the first emergency call. Mobile phone footage showed his car had been rammed against the kerb by a police car before his arrest at gunpoint. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated that the suspect charged had been planning to continue the attack.
At the time of the attack, Tarrant's place of residence was Andersons Bay, Dunedin. He had worked as a personal trainer in Grafton, New South Wales, from 2009 to 2011. Around 2012, he started visiting many countries in Asia and Europe. Authorities in Bulgaria and Turkey are investigating his visits to their respective nations. He became obsessed with terrorist attacks committed by Islamic extremists in 2016 and 2017, started planning an attack about two years prior to the shootings, and chose his targets three months in advance. Security officials suspect he had come into contact with far-right organisations about two years before the shooting while visiting European nations.
According to Ardern, Tarrant acquired a gun licence in November 2017 and began buying guns the following month. David Tipple, a gun-rights activist and the owner of 20 Gun City stores in New Zealand, legally sold guns and ammunition to the gunman. In a media conference following the shootings, Tipple claimed no responsibility for the attack as a result of those sales, and refused to engage in wider debate.
Police recovered five guns at the scene – two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm. The guns and magazines used were covered in white writing that named historical events, people, and motifs related to historical conflicts, wars, and battles between Muslims and European Christians as well as the names of recent Islamic terrorist attack victims and the names of far-right attackers like Josué Estébanez and Luca Traini.[note 1]
Nine minutes before the attacks, he emailed the manifesto to over 30 recipients, including the Prime Minister's office and several media outlets. He also shared links to the manifesto on Twitter and 8chan immediately before the attack. His manifesto said he began planning an attack two years earlier and chose the Christchurch location three months earlier. His document stated that he targeted Muslims as a form of "revenge against Islam for 1,300 years of war and devastation that it has brought upon the people of the West and other peoples of the world".
Some journalists who analyzed the manifesto believed it was a front, and instead, along with the attack, designed to troll and create discourse about certain groups and people. It was suggested that memes within the manifesto (such as the Navy Seal copypasta, which lists accomplishments such as having "over 300 confirmed kills") could be misinterpreted by the media. One investigator considered the manifesto a trap for the media, stating that it was "laid for journalists searching for the meaning behind this horrific crime. There is truth in there, and valuable clues to the shooter’s radicalization, but it is buried beneath a great deal of, for lack of a better word, 'shitposting.'" For example, just before carrying out the attack, the gunman said "remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie", a meme referring to the popular Swedish YouTube personality Felix Kjellberg who goes by the alias PewDiePie. Kjellberg posted on Twitter, "I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person," and gave his condolences to those affected; similarly, those that has popularised the "subscribed to PewDiePie" meme wanted to see the meme's spread stop after being used as a call to arms by the attacker rather than as the joke it was started as. Because Kjellberg has tens of millions of followers on social media, alongside the then-current popularity of the meme, this served the purpose of spreading news about the attack further to draw more interest in it. Journalists saw that a similar effect could be had, due to the manifesto's mention of prominent people that have drawn ideological criticism, to attract media coverage and partially blame them for the attack.
Tarrant appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday 16 March, where he was charged with murder and remanded in custody. During his court appearance, he smiled at the media and made an inverted OK gesture; The case was transferred to the High Court, with his next appearance scheduled for 5 April 2019. where he will conduct his own defence having dismissed the duty lawyer provided to represent him.
On the day of the attacks, authorities stated that four suspects were arrested. Two days after the attack, Police CommissionerMike Bush stated that separate from the main suspect, the three other people arrested did not appear to be involved in the attacks. Police arrested a woman and a man after finding a firearm in a vehicle in which they were travelling together. The woman was released uncharged while the man was held in custody, charged with a firearms offence. An 18-year-old man was arrested after he armed himself with the intention to "assist children in the area"; he will appear in court on 18 March 2019.
Additionally, a 30-year-old man claimed he was arrested when he arrived at Papanui High School to pick up his 13-year-old brother-in-law. He was wearing camouflage clothing, which he said he habitually wore. He also said police gave him a verbal warning for disorderly behaviour.
Emergency services response
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that police were at the first mosque within minutes of the incident being reported at 1:42 pm. In response to criticism that police were too slow to react to the attacks, the police defended the 36 minutes it took to arrest Tarrant. District Commander John Price said "That is an incredibly fast response time. You had a mobile offender across a large metropolitan city."
Authorities advised all mosques in the country to close until further notice and sent police to secure various sites in Christchurch. All Air New Zealand Link services departing Christchurch Airport were cancelled as a precaution, due to the absence of security screening at the regional terminal. Security was increased at Parliament in Wellington, including the cancellation of public tours. In Dunedin, the Armed Offenders Squad searched a house and cordoned off part of the surrounding street in Andersons Bay after the shooter indicated on social media that he had originally planned to target the city's Al Huda Mosque.
The mosques involved in the attacks, and others around the world, have been the focus of vigils, messages, and floral tributes from the community. The mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, also encouraged people to lay flowers outside the city's Botanic Gardens on Rolleston Avenue.
A Givealittle online fundraiser, started to support victims and their families, has so far raised over NZ$4.3 million. Together with other fundraisers, over $6.1 million were raised in total for the victims and their families. The Prime Minister also reiterated that those injured or killed in the shootings and their immediate families are covered by the country's accident compensation scheme (ACC), which offers compensation for lost income and a $10,000 funeral grant, among other benefits.
Some New Zealand gun owners have responded by voluntarily handing in their weapons to the police.
The live stream was re-posted on many video streaming services including LiveLeak and YouTube. Police, Muslim advocacy groups and government agencies urged anyone who finds the footage to take it down or report it. The New Zealand Office of Film and Literature Classification quickly classified the video as "objectionable", making it an offence to distribute, copy, or exhibit the video within the country. An 18-year-old man appeared in Christchurch District Court on 18 March faced with a charge of distributing the video and with a second charge of making an objectionable publication by posting a photo of Al Noor Mosque with the message "target acquired" and other chat messages "inciting extreme violence". Some media organisations in Australia and tabloid newspaper websites in the United Kingdom broadcast parts of the live stream, up to the point the gunman entered the building, despite pleas from New Zealand police not to show it.Sky Television New Zealand temporarily stopped its rebroadcast of Sky News Australia after that network showed the footage, and stated they were working with Sky News Australia to prevent further displays of the video. New Zealand's Internet service providers have taken steps to block access to 8chan and other sites related to the attack, and have temporarily blocked other sites like 4chan, LiveLeak, and Mega where the video has been hosted until these sites comply with their request to take down the video. Additionally, at least three sites, 8chan, Kiwi Farms, and Voat, are all under investigation by New Zealand authorities for material pertinent to the attack, where video and other posts were made as the attack was live.
Social media sites including Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and Twitter stated that they were working diligently to remove the video of the attack from their platforms and would also remove anything supporting the attacks; According to Facebook, the original video from the attacker had been viewed less than 200 times before the service was notified of the video's content; Facebook subsequently removed the video within minutes of notification, and created a digital hash fingerprint to detect further uploads, which by this point were being propagated across many social media sites. Facebook's New Zealand operations said that within the 24 hours after the attack, they had blocked 1.5 million uploads of the video and images, including edited versions, from their service, most blocked through the digital fingerprint to prevent public visibility. Reddit banned subreddits named "WatchPeopleDie" and "Gore", stating the threads had glorified the attacks in violation of user agreements. Despite this response, New Zealand officials as well as other world leaders have tasked Facebook, YouTube, and other major social sites to take more steps to be responsible for extremist content that is posted to their sites.
Prime Minister Ardern visited members of the Muslim community at the Phillipstown Community Hub in Christchurch the day after the attacks.
Prime Minister Ardern called the incident an "act of extreme and unprecedented violence" and said "this is one of New Zealand's darkest days." She also described it as a well-planned terrorist attack. Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel stated that she never thought "anything like this" could happen in New Zealand, saying "everyone is shocked".Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand, said she was "deeply saddened" by the attack.
The gunman cited Donald Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose", but denounced his leadership and policies.
When President Trump was asked if he thought "white nationalists were a growing threat around the world", he replied "I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It's certainly a terrible thing."
The United Kingdom's domestic intelligence service, MI5, launched an enquiry into the shooter's links to the British far-right.
New Zealand-based white supremacist groups were quick to condemn the attack and distance themselves from the perpetrator. However a number of alt-right leaders overseas and online posters supported the attack, hailing the shooter as a "hero" and calling the violence a part of an ongoing worldwide ethnic conflict between white and non-white people. Andrew Anglin, the leader of the website The Daily Stormer, stated that out of the mass shootings he had seen "this is by far the funniest one of them all" and that the shooter was already a "folk hero" to many.
Gun laws in New Zealand came under scrutiny in the aftermath, specifically the legality of military-style semi-automatic weapons compared to Australia which banned them after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. As gun-policy specialist Philip Alpers noted, "New Zealand is almost alone with the United States in not registering 96 percent of its firearms ... one can assume that the ease of obtaining these firearms may have been a factor in his decision to commit the crime in Christchurch." The New Zealand auction website Trade Me has banned the sale of semi-automatic weapons on its platform.
Prime Minister Ardern announced: "Our gun laws will change, now is the time ... People will be seeking change, and I am committed to that." She continued, "There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change." Attorney-General David Parker was later quoted as saying that the government will ban semi-automatic guns, but subsequently backtracked on this statement, saying that the government had not yet committed to anything and that regulations around semi-automatic weapons was "one of the issues" the government would consider. Ardern, at a press conference on 18 March, indicated that details of the proposed reforms will be given by 25 March.
^Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed support for New Zealand and condemned the shootings as a "violent, extremist, right-wing terrorist attack." He confirmed that an Australian had been detained as a suspect in connection with the attack. British Prime Minister Theresa May described the incident as a "horrifying terrorist attack", and said "my thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence". Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed "deepest condolences" and stated that "Canada remembers too well the sorrow we felt when a senseless attack on the Centre culturel islamique de Québec in Ste-Foy claimed the lives of many innocent people gathered in prayer", referencing the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump extended his "warmest sympathy and best wishes...to the people of New Zealand", and he and the FBI offered them assistance while security at mosques around the United States was increased. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Prime Minister Ardern a message of condolence, saying "This attack on civilians who gathered for prayer is shocking in its violence and cynicism". The lighting of the Ostankino Tower in Moscow, the tallest free-standing structure in Europe, was off for one hour as a sign of mourning. King Salman of Saudi Arabia said: "The heinous massacre of the worshipers at mosques in New Zealand is a terrorist act." He also called on the international community to confront hate speech and terrorism. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of Vatican City, sent a letter of condolences on behalf of Pope Francis, assuring the Muslim community in New Zealand of the Pope's, "heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks," and stating that, "His Holiness prays for the healing of the injured, the consolation of those who grieve the loss of their loved ones, and for all affected by this tragedy."
Condolences were also provided by Azerbaijani, Bangladeshi, Bruneian, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hungarian, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, South Korean, Kosovar, Malaysian, Pakistani, Singaporean, Taiwanese, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese leaders. In Pakistan, during the Pakistan Super League 4 final at the National Stadium in Karachi, a moment of silence was observed.
^"49 killed in terrorist attack at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand". Washington Post. Retrieved 15 March 2019. Further afield, Felix Kjellberg, a YouTube celebrity from Sweden who goes by “PewDiePie” and flirts openly with Nazi symbolism, distanced himself from the violence after the man who live-streamed his rampage asked viewers to “subscribe to PewDiePie.”