New Zealand shooting suspect had ‘many’ other targets planned

CBC News is carefully considering the use of images and video from this attack and is using this material sparingly in the interest of helping our readers understand what happened and why.  


A manifesto linked to the man charged in the shooting attacks of two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, says he was motivated by white nationalist ideology, had planned the attack for years and anticipated that he might not make it out alive.

At least 49 people were killed and dozens more injured in the shootings Friday in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is calling “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” An Australian man in his 20s has been charged with murder, and two other people were being questioned. Police said none of the people in police custody had been on any watch list.

According to the 74-page manifesto posted to a now-deleted Twitter account with the same name as the suspected gunman, the attack was planned to give him “enough time to train, form a plan, settle my affairs, write down my views, then enact the attack.”

A still image taken from video circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, shows him driving in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. (Twitter via Reuters)

But the manifesto should be considered with caution. It reads like a playbook of far-right talking points, peppered with internet memes, and the investigative website Bellingcat says some of the content may have been intentional “misdirection” and “calculated to spark division.”

Here’s what we know so far:

  • The alleged attacker reportedly livestreamed part of the attack. Police have urged people not to share the “distressing” footage.
  • The accused identified himself online before the rampage as Australian citizen Brenton Tarrant.
  • A now-deleted Twitter account with the same name as the suspected gunman had photos of weapons and protective equipment, and a link to a racist manifesto describing motivation for the attacks.
  • Photos of the equipment show names of extremist and historical figures written in white lettering on some of the equipment. 
  • One of the names was Alexandre Bissonnette, the man who killed six people in an attack on a Quebec City mosque.

This photo of rifle ammunition appeared on a now-deleted Twitter account from a user whose name matched that of the Christchurch shootings suspect. Those mentioned include Quebec City mosque gunman Alexandre Bissonnette. (Twitter via Reuters)

  • The writer of the manifesto describes himself as 28 years old, born in Australia to a “working-class, low-income family,” and said he had a “regular childhood.”
  • The manifesto calls out world leaders including “terrorist” Nelson Mandela, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, referred to as a “Pakistani Muslim invader,” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is known for accepting large numbers of migrants to settle in Germany. “Few have done more to damage and racially cleanse Europe of its people,” the manifesto says of Merkel.
  • The manifesto names other mass shooters like Anders Breivik and Dylan [Dylann] Roof as people who had had an influence on him.
  • The person who influenced him “above all” is American right-wing commentator Candace Owens. Owens responded on Twitter by accusing “the left” and media of saying she inspired the attack.

A screenshot of a tweet by Candace Owens in response to the New Zealand mosque shootings. (Candace Owens/Twitter)

  • The manifesto is written in Q&A fashion. The writer says he is not a member of any political group or movement. He goes on to detail white nationalist, anti-immigrant opinions, saying he was motivated by “white genocide,” a term white supremacists use to describe immigration and the growth of minority populations.
  • He says he made money investing in Bitconnect, a cryptocurrency, and used the money to travel.
  • Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports Brenton Tarrant worked as a personal trainer at Big River Gym in the New South Wales city of Grafton between 2009 and 2011, when he left to go travelling overseas in Asia and in Europe.
  • Tracey Gray, manager of the gym, told ABC she recalled Tarrant’s father Rodney died from an asbestos-related illness when Tarrant was in high school, and she believed he still had a surviving sister and mother.

A still image taken from video circulated on social media, posted online by the apparent gunman as the attack unfolded, shows weapons and gas cans in the trunk of his car. (Twitter via Reuters)

  • Online accounts linked to the suspect had in recent days circulated white supremacist imagery and extreme right-wing messages celebrating violence against Muslims, and minorities on social media and message boards.
  • According to the manifesto, the attack was planned two years in advance, and the location chosen three months ago.
  • There were “many” other targets planned.
  • Prime Minister Ardern said five guns were used in the attack.
  • Ardern said the suspect obtained a gun license in November of 2017 and began legally acquiring firearms in December of the same year. She also said New Zealand will review its gun laws in wake of the attack.
  • If he survived, the attacker planned to plead not guilty, calling the attack “a partisan action against an occupying force” and himself a “lawful, uniformed combatant.”
  • In the car on his way to the mosques, the gunman plays a Serbian nationalist anthem that exalts the Bosnian Serb wartime leader who led the 1995 massacre of about 8,000 Muslims.