At least three dead, 25 injured, suspect in custody after CBD car chase
The man arrested over a wild car chase through the CBD that killed three, including a young child, and injured at least 20 people was wanted over a stabbing in Windsor early on Friday and is currently the subject of multiple bail orders.
The three who died are a man in his 30s, a woman in her 30s and a child, reported by AAP to be 10 years old. Five people are in a critical condition, including a three-month-old baby who has been taken to hospital in a police car because there was no time to wait for an ambulance to arrive.
Police sources say officers called off their pursuit of the man before his car entered the CBD about 1.30pm, fearing it was too dangerous to ram the vehicle. He had earlier taken a female hostage, but she escaped on the Bolte Bridge.
The car was next seen performing burnouts at the intersection outside Flinders Street Station before ploughing through popular pedestrian precinct, the Bourke Street Mall, and then west along Bourke Street.
Police ended the chase by shooting the driver, who is injured but alive. The arrested man had an extensive history of family violence, drug and mental health problems. He had come to police attention because of some assaults in recent days, police said.
“A male deliberately drove into pedestrians in Bourke Street Mall. We have three deceased. We believe this is connected to an earlier stabbing in the southern metro region. We have the offender in custody. I can also confirm this is not a CT [counter-terrorism] related incident. There is no ongoing threat to the public,” acting Police Commander Stuart Bateson said.
The suspect has been identified as James “Jimmy” Gargasoulas, 26.
He was bailed by a bail justice on the weekend after he was arrested in St Kilda for a number of alleged offences, including family violence and stealing another car, sources said.
He was wanted over a stabbing that left a man in his 20s, believed to be the suspect’s brother Angelo, in a critical condition in Melbourne’s south in the early hours of Friday.
Police were called to an address in Raleigh Street, Windsor, shortly after 2am after reports of two men fighting.
A police spokesman said the men had left the scene by the time police arrived.
“A man in his 20s presented to a nearby hospital with stab wounds,” he said.
Following this incident, police say the suspect took a woman known to him hostage in his car. She managed to escape from the car on the Bolte Bridge earlier today.
After police called off the pursuit of the maroon-coloured car, was later seen doing “burnouts” in the middle of the intersection outside Flinders Street Station, then speeding north towards Bourke Street Mall.
‘People were flying everywhere’
Witness Rebecca Russo told Fairfax Media she saw three people hit by the car as it sped through the mall with police in pursuit.
“We were just standing on Bourke Street, and we heard a bit of a crash coming from the mall. I saw a maroon car driving up the pedestrian path on the Flinders Street side.
“People were running out of the way, they were going very, very fast. I saw him hit a few people. I saw bodies flying into the air.”
Emergency services reported they treated at least 15 people at multiple incident scenes.
“All we could see is just the car and carnage, people were flying everywhere,” witness Hank Kerr said in a video posted to Twitter: “Every few metres there’s someone badly injured.”
The vehicle crossed over Elizabeth Street, heading west along Bourke Street near the corner of William Street.
Sharn Baylis from Adelaide said she gave CPR to a young man in his 20s who appeared to have suffered severe head injuries.
She said onlookers tried to save the man but he died on the footpath outside Bardot on Bourke Street after being run over by the car before paramedics could help him.
“There were massive internal injuries, he was bleeding heavily but the head injury alone probably would have killed him,” she said.
She ran over to help the man after watching the car drive down Bourke Street Mall moving in a straight line as it slammed into pedestrians.
“There was no hesitation when he got to the crowd, he just mowed them down,” she said. “He was going around 60km/h but it seemed faster.
“People were literally just flying like skittles, bouncing off the bonnet and smashing into the shops”
The immediate emotional reaction to the incident was disbelief, she said. “There were a few gaps and then you started hearing yelling and a few people scream.”
Children were also screaming and appeared to have injuries, she said.
Former Victoria Police commissioner Christine Nixon was on the scene, where she helped direct traffic.
She saw an injured child, she told ABC radio.
“[The toddler’s mother] kept asking me ‘where’s the baby?’ and I said ‘I don’t know’.”
Like many others, Ms Nixon said she barely escaped with her life.
“I was standing on the corner of Bourke and William waiting to cross the road, and people were calling out.
“I turned around and saw the car. He was probably about a metre from me, I stepped back [from the road] and he continued down Bourke Street on the footpath, with people chasing him.”
Dozens of shaken witnesses have gathered at Melbourne West police station to provide statements. One woman, who did not want to be named, said she saw a mother who was pushing her baby in pram struck by the car on the Bourke Street footpath, near William Street.
“The baby flew into the air,” she said. “The mother was lying on the ground covered in blood.”
Police asked the woman and her colleague to get first aid materials and a defibrillator, and she returned to the scene with the equipment.
She was told that the mother and her daughter were alive one hour after the incident.
“It was just horrible.”
Chase ends with shots fired, suspect arrested
The suspect’s car was stopped near the intersection of Bourke and William Street after police shot the driver.
Shortly afterwards, armed police surrounded the car and dragged a single occupant from the vehicle.
He was restrained and stripped down to his underwear, according to video and photos posted by observers in nearby buildings.
The vehicle was heavily damaged, with the hood crumpled in and a smashed windscreen.