Ashburton gunman captured by police

A crime scene is set up at Ashburton Work and Income Centre after two people were shot dead and a...
A crime scene is set up at Ashburton Work and Income Centre after two people were shot dead and a third was critically injured this morning. Photo by Getty.

The man at the centre of a massive hunt in Ashburton today after two Work and Income workers were shot dead and a third critically injured has been taken into custody.

Homeless man Russell Tully, known as John, 48, was found on a rural property near Lake Hood this afternoon. No shots were fired but he suffered dog bites.

Ashburton had been in lockdown while police conducted a massive search for Tully.

The alarm was sounded when a man wearing camouflaged clothing and a balaclava entered Work and Income office about 10am armed with a sawn-off shotgun.

The man shot three Work and Income workers, killing two and seriously injury the third, who was flown to Christchurch Hospital and is in a critical condition.

He fled the scene on a bicycle he had chained up outside the office.

Canterbury District Superintendent Gary Knowles said: "This is a very, very tragic event. Two people have lost their lives." 

He wouldn't say if the dead people were male or female, nor would he say how many shots were fired.

Nor would he say if Mr Tully had an appointment at Work and Income this morning, or why he was there.

Tully was found by police dogs at a rural property near Lake Hood, the search area the police have been concentrating on for most of the day.

Mr Knowles said there was "minor resistance" and that Tully had received minor dog bite wounds. No officers were injured.

Tully was tracked for some distance by dogs. No shots were fired and there was no standoff.

"We're still searching for his weapon," Mr Knowles said.

He was arrested and taken into custody at Ashburton police station but no charges have yet been laid.

Mr Knowles said Tully would be medically examined before being formally interviewed and charged.

There had been two sightings earlier in the day and as a result, the chopper was put in the air, along with AOS, STG, and dog patrols.

The capture will be a "huge relief" for local community, he said.

"It gives them some closure and safety tonight to think they can go home and not worry," he said.

"We had the whole area contained but as I said, it's the small town New Zealand.. dealing with things ... it's been horrific today."

Mr Knowles couldn't say if he had been under the influence of drugs.

"Nothing will give the families who lost loved ones closure but I think a community can go to sleep tonight with the thought that the person we believe may be responsible is in custody."

Ashburton Mayor Angus McKay said was a very community-minded town and the tragedy would affect many lives.

He became emotional when talking about it: "It just hits home real hard."

The Education Ministry contacted schools and early childhood centres in the area and told staff to keep children inside.

A hockey tournament at Ashburton College was cancelled and the students were taken inside.

Residents of Ashburton were last night gathering at the station. Abuse aimed at the arrested man was hurled at the van as it arrived and there was praise for the police.

"Go the police," said one. Another said: "They've a risked their lives today. I can sleep now."

One woman said: "Those poor people. I don't get it."


Winz shuts offices

Offices in Ashburton, Timaru, Oamaru, Balclutha and Christchurch will be closed until further notice.

The Dunedin offices are open for emergency appointments. 

Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle said in a statement: "We are all shocked by the news of this morning's incident at the Ashburton Work and Income office.

"The Police are handling this serious situation. What I can say is that we will be there for our colleagues to support them as they come to terms with what has happened.

The Public Service Association (PSA) said the shooting was a tragedy.

National secretary Richard Wagstaff said: "Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy.

"We don't know what the cause is, but we will be supporting our members from Ashburton Work and Income at this terrible time."

That two people have died and one more is in a serious condition is inexcusable, and we hope the police can bring the shooter to justice.

"Nobody should go to work in the morning without returning home that same day.

"Our 6500 members working at Ministry of Social Development will have their Ashburton colleagues in their thoughts."