New Zealand mosque shooter a white nationalist seeking revenge
SYDNEY — The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings in New Zealand that left 49 people dead on Friday tried to make a few things clear in the manifesto he left behind: He is a 28-year-old Australian white nationalist who hates immigrants. He was angry about attacks in Europe that were perpetrated by Muslims. He wanted revenge, and he wanted to create fear.
He also, quite clearly, wanted attention.
Though he claimed not to covet fame, the gunman — who authorities identified as Brenton Harrison Tarrant — left behind a 74-page document posted on social media under his name in which he said he hoped to survive the attack to better spread his views in the media.
He also livestreamed to the world in graphic detail his assault on the worshippers at Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque.
That rampage killed at least 41 people, while an attack on a second mosque in the city not long after killed several more. Police did not say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings. Tarrant appeared briefly in court on Saturday morning amid tight security and showed no emotion as the judge read the charge against him.
While his manifesto and video were an obvious and contemptuous ploy for infamy, they do contain important clues for a public trying to understand why anyone would target dozens of innocent people who were simply spending an afternoon engaged in prayer.
There could be no more perplexing a setting for a mass slaughter than New Zealand, a nation so placid and so isolated from the mass shootings that plague the U.S. that police officers rarely carry guns.
Yet the gunman himself highlighted New Zealand’s remoteness as a reason he chose it. He wrote that an attack in New Zealand would show that no place on earth was safe and that even a country as far away as New Zealand is subject to mass immigration.
He said he grew up in a working-class Australian family, had a typical childhood and was a poor student. Tarrant’s relatives in the Australian town of Grafton contacted police after learning of the shooting and were helping with the investigation, local authorities said. Tarrant has spent little time in Australia in the past four years and only had minor traffic infractions on his record.
A woman who said she was a colleague of his when he worked as a personal trainer in Grafton said she was shocked by the allegations against him.
“I can’t ... believe that somebody I’ve probably had daily dealings with and had shared conversations and interacted with would be able of something to this extreme,” Tracey Gray told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The rambling manifesto is filled with confusing and seemingly contradictory assertions about his beliefs.
Beyond his white nationalistic views, he claimed to be an environmentalist and said he is a fascist who believes China is the nation that most aligns with his political and social values. He said he has contempt for the wealthiest 1 percent. And he singled out American conservative commentator Candace Owens as the person who had influenced him the most, while saying “the extreme actions she calls for are too much, even for my tastes.”