By HARRY CLARKE
AUSTRALIA’S Prime Minister and Queensland’s Premier, Police Commissioner and Police Minister have expressed their grief following the shooting deaths of three people, including two officers, at a property on Queensland’s Western Downs yesterday evening.
Violence unfolded on a rural block at Wieambilla about 4.40pm when four officers, understood to be from the Tara Police Station, were ambushed by three gunmen reportedly wearing camouflage gear.
The officers were investigating a missing persons report from New South Wales on the property at the end of Wains Rd, about halfway between the towns of Chinchilla and Tara and about four hours’ drive west of Brisbane.
Two officers – a 29-year-old male and a 26-year-old female – died at the scene as the assailants opened fire at close range.
A “member of the public” understood to be a neighbour was also killed, Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said.
“Another officer received a bullet graze and is receiving treatment in hospital. A fourth officer managed to escape the property and is also receiving treatment,” she said.
There are reports that the assailants “stood over” the two dead officers, took their weapons, and fired further rounds at them.
With the shooters at large, dozens of police and ambulance, as well at Polair and Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) police, swarmed the scene.
By 11pm last night SERT officers had shot dead all three shooters, Police Union boss Ian Levers confirmed.
“While we are yet to learn the full extent of what has occurred today we do know this event is extraordinarily distressing on many levels,” Commissioner Carroll said.
“I extend my heartfelt condolences to officers’ families, friends and colleagues. Our thoughts are with them during this extremely difficult time. Those officers paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep our community safe.
“I would like to also pay tribute to all police and first responders who assisted at the scene and are continuing to respond this evening.
“It is sadly a reminder of the unpredictable nature of policing and the incredible dangers our officers face while protecting our community.
“I know the days and weeks ahead will be particularly difficult for families and the police family.
“We are an organisation in mourning tonight and at the appropriate time we will honour the sacrifice these officers have made for us.”
“Tragically this is the largest loss of life we have suffered in one single incident in recent times. It is devastating news and I know that it will be deeply felt across Queensland.
“Our priority right now is to ensure those responsible are brought to justice and that family, friends and colleagues of the officers involved are being supported as much as possible,” she said.
Police Minister Mark Ryan added: “The hearts of Queenslanders break, they break again tonight”.
“This is a tragedy on so many levels and the thoughts of all of us are with the police family,” he said.
“This is a traumatic, confronting and devasting event for our community. The QPS has lost two heroes tonight and I express my sincere condolences to their family, friends, colleagues and the entire police family.
“These officers served with honour and we will always remember their sacrifice in the service of our community.”