March 18, 2019
Mourners lay flowers on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, Monday, March 18, 2019. AP Photo/Vincent Thian
By Juliet Williams, Stephen Wright and Kristen Gelineau, The Associated Press
A Christchurch gun shop on Monday acknowledged selling guns online to the 28-year-old white supremacist accused of killing 50 people in mosque shootings that have upturned New Zealand’s reputation as among the world’s most tolerant and safe nations.
At a news conference, Gun City owner David Tipple said the store sold four guns and ammunition to Brenton Harrison Tarrant through a “police-verified online mail order process.”
He said none of the weapons were military-style semi-automatic weapons. Calling for gun laws to be tightened, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has said the attacker used five guns, two of them semi-automatic, which were purchased with an ordinary gun license and modified.
It was not clear if any of the firearms Tarrant purchased from Gun City were used in Friday’s shootings.
“We detected nothing extraordinary about this license holder,” Tipple said, referring to the shooter. Tipple said he and staff are “dismayed and disgusted” by Friday’s shootings.
His store has been criticized for leaving out a roadside advertising billboard that shows a parent helping children with rifle target practice in the wake of the shootings.
Three days after the attack, New Zealand’s deadliest shooting in modern history, relatives were anxiously waiting for word on when they can bury their loved ones. Islamic tradition calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours.
Aya Al-Umari, whose older brother Hussien Al-Umari died at the Al Noor mosque, wept as she talked about a kind man, a quintessential big brother who delighted in teasing his little sister.
On Monday, the family was still waiting for the release of Hussein’s body. They have tried to be patient, and understand that police have a job to do, but they are growing weary of the lack of information.
“It’s very unsettling not knowing what’s going on, if you just let me know — is he still in the mosque? Is he in a fridge? Where is he?” Aya said. “I understand the police need to do their job because it’s a crime scene, but you need to communicate with the families.”
Members of the Muslim community and police were Monday morning at a cemetery which has been fenced off and obscured with white netting. Backhoes had stopped digging and police officers said they were setting up a media area inside the cemetery.
Ardern has said authorities hoped to release all the bodies by Wednesday, and Police Commissioner Mike Bush said authorities were working with pathologists and coroners to complete the task as soon as they could.
Tarrant, an Australian citizen who lived in New Zealand, appeared in court on Saturday amid strict security, shackled and wearing all-white prison garb.
He showed no emotion when the judge read one murder charge and said more charges would likely follow. The New Zealand Herald reported Monday that he had dismissed his appointed lawyer and plans to defend himself.
Tarrant had posted a muddled, 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto online before the attacks and apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter.
Facebook said it removed 1.5 million videos of the shootings during the first 24 hours after the massacre. The revelation in a tweet provided a chilling snapshot of how quickly provocative and often disturbing images circulate on the internet.
Thousands of people struggling to make sense of the tragedy have paid tribute to the victims at makeshift memorials in Christchurch, a leafy city of 400,000 people known for its English heritage and the river that meanders through it.
Hundreds of flowers were piled up amid candles, balloons and notes of grief and love outside the Al Noor mosque and the city’s botanic gardens.
“We are a nation who will never accept acts like this!!!,” said a poster-sized message decorated with hearts attached to the iron fence of the botanic gardens. “We stand with the Muslim community. We will always fight for the safety of our community. We will always stand as one.”
Some people sang tributes and others prayed as camera crews from around the world filmed the moving scenes.
“We are supposed to be a safe place to go about your business and regardless of what your faith is no one should’ve had to go through what we went through on Friday,” said city resident Russell Falcome-Price.