The Special Forces of New Zealand’s military were attending a ‘snipers event’ in Christchurch on the very same day of the mosque shootings. Snipers from the New Zealand army, as well as professional snipers from Australia, had been attending the Defence Force shooting range at West Melton, just 25 kms west of the city.
Nzherald.co.nz reports: When the massacre unfolded, they were sprung into action and understood to have been granted special powers to take up arms in order to protect the public.
NZSAS soldiers were photographed with weapons and balaclavas masking their face near the Al Noor Mosque by Hagley Park where a gunman stormed Friday prayer and shot dead more than 40 people.
One photograph, which has appeared on social media, appears to show an NZSAS soldier with an army sniper rifle or designated marksman weapon outside the Deans Ave mosque.
Others responded to a callout at Papanui High School which was feared to have been under attack too.
New Zealand Police special tactics group (STG) officers were also on the frontline.
The Defence Force and Police have been approached for comment.
The two police officers who finally apprehended the gunman on Brougham St were also out-of-towners who joined the urgent scramble to find the fleeing gunman.
They were on a training session at Princess Margaret Hospital in Cashmere, using a disused floor of the hospital to practice room clearing and dealing with armed offenders.
After hearing there was an active shooter on the loose in the city, the officers, who are both based in smaller towns out of Christchurch, took to the streets to stop him.
Driving on Brougham St they spotted someone fitting the description of the mosque shooter coming towards them.
They confirmed it was the right car, did a U-turn, and decided to ram him.
They ploughed into the gunman’s car on the driver’s side, knocking his car out of action. Footage supplied to the Herald shows the officers dragging him out of the passenger side.
“I was surprised how calm and collected they were,” said their boss, rural response manager Senior Sergeant Pete Stills.
“They wouldn’t have been scared, we practice for this stuff – to be honest, it was lucky two officers with that amount of service and experience were there.”
Footage of the arrest has been widely shared on social media and the officers have been hailed as heroes by many including Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
Bush said without their brave actions, it was likely more people would have been killed.