Six people, including two police officers, were shot and killed at a property in rural Australia after officers who arrived to investigate reports of a missing person were ambushed, authorities said Tuesday.
Police say the violence began at about 4:45 p.m. Monday when four officers arrived at a remote property in Queensland state.
At least two shooters opened fire on police officers at the rural property in Wieambilla, authorities said. Police said they returned fire but two officers were critically injured and died at the scene, and a bystander – possibly a neighbour, according to some media – was also killed during the firefight.
In that initial confrontation, a third officer was grazed by a bullet while the fourth escaped, Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said at a briefing.
Authorities said a siege situation then developed at the property, with specialized police officers and air support called in.
Just after 10:30 p.m., two men and a woman – were killed in second major confrontation with police, bringing the violence to an end, police said.
The commissioner fought back tears at an earlier news conference when she confirmed the first three deaths, saying the situation was devastating.
“Tragically, this is the largest loss of life we have suffered in one single incident in recent times,” Carroll said.
Police Union president Ian Leavers said one of the dead officers was male and the other female, and both were under the age of 30, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. He said they had “no chance” when fired upon.
“To know that she and he are no longer with us in what was a ruthless, calculated and targeted execution of our colleagues and loved ones brings home the very real risks that we face every single day doing our jobs,” Leavers said in a video, according to the broadcaster. “They were executed by remorseless, ruthless killers.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described “terrible scenes in Wieambilla and a heartbreaking day for the families and friends of the Queensland Police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”
“My condolences to all who are grieving tonight – Australia mourns with you,” Albanese wrote on Twitter.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton, a former Queensland police officer, said the news of police officers being murdered was “deeply distressing.”
“Police officers face danger every day to keep us from it,” he wrote on Twitter.
An emergency declaration remained in place on Tuesday morning for the Wieambilla area and a crime scene had been established at the property. The area is sparsely populated and has several large properties and gas fields.