The main suspect in the deadly assault on two New Zealand mosques that was live-streamed on Facebook is a 28-year-old Australian who’d travelled the world and obtained his firearms legally, authorities said Saturday.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant has been charged with one count of murder, according to a charging sheet from Christchurch District Court. More charges will be filed later in the attacks that left at least 49 people dead, police said on Twitter.
Tarrant said nothing and showed no expression when he appeared in court Saturday morning wearing a white boiler suit. During his brief appearance, Tarrant was handcuffed and accompanied by three officers armed with tasers. He’s scheduled to be back in court April 5.
Part of the evidence against Tarrant may come from social media. Video of the attack on Friday worshipers and a 16,000-word manifesto filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment were posted online to an account under the name Brenton Tarrant. Police have not confirmed the account belongs to the man now in custody, or that he authored the manifesto.
Speaking at a press conference Saturday, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Tarrant was “not willing to be arrested.”
Describing the arrest and video of the arrest, Bush said: “Again, I think you’d probably seen some of that video, there was live audio coming back to my command centre in Wellington of that apprehension and I can tell you, as I was listening to that, the person was non-compliant.”
If convicted of murder, he won’t face the death penalty because it’s not used in New Zealand. The maximum penalty for the charge is life imprisonment.
Police in New South Wales says they’ve been speaking to Tarrant’s Australian-based family, adding that the family has been “assisting and cooperating.”