Michael Rogers has had a tough life, spending time in and out of jail over the last 20 years for petty crimes, as well as battling substance abuse. But now he’s been hailed as a national hero for using a shopping trolley to take on an attacker in Melbourne’s Bourke Street on Friday afternoon.
Rogers has been dubbed “Trolley Man” after he intervened to charge knife-wielding Hassan Khalif Shire Ali with an empty trolley to defend two police officers. Shire Ali was attempting to stab the officers before he was shot dead by police.
Shire Ali had already killed one man, Pellegrini’s espresso bar co-owner Sisto Malaspina, and injured two others, who remain in a satisfactory condition in hospital.
Pellegrini’s remains closed today, the site covered in flowers. Malaspina, considered by many to be the beating heart of the city, and his family, have been offered a state funeral by the government.
When people suggested to Donna Stolzenberg, founder and CEO of charity group National Homeless Collective, that Rogers – whose phone was destroyed in the incident – could do with a helping hand, she swung into action to set up a GoFundMe campaign , “Not all heroes wear capes”.
It has raised more than $110,000 in just a day as a thank you for his bravery.
Fairfax Media, who spoke to Rogers, reports that he has a public housing apartment but chooses to be homeless. On Friday afternoon, he was sitting in Bourke Street rolling a cigarette when chaos exploded around him.
And while he’s had plenty of run-ins with police over the years, when the attack unfolded, Rogers acted instinctively, grabbing a nearly empty shopping trolley to ram Shire Ali repeatedly as he lunged with his knife. Rogers didn’t realise Shire Ali was armed at the time.
Shire Ali set fire to his car after crashing it, before going on his rampage. Rogers initially though the driver was having an argument before he realised it was something more serious.
He saw the trolley to his side and decided to act to protect the police.
“It was a spur of the moment thing,” he told Seven News.
“The guy was out of control so I just went into action mode and tried to swipe him with the trolley.”
After an initial skirmish, in which Rogers fell backwards as he threw the trolley at Shire Ali, but distracted him sufficiently to give the police time to regroup, and back off, the attack crossed the street. Rogers regrouped, grabbed the trolley again and proceeded to enter the fray again.
One of the officers fired his weapon, shooting Shire Ali in the chest, bringing the attack to an end.
Here is the incident:
— windix (@windix) November 9, 2018
Recounting his life story to Fairfax Media, Rogers said he grew up in housing commission flats in Collingwood, where his mother had a sedative addiction and he used to steal her pills.
He was sent to live with his grandmother in Highett, aged 14, but didn’t fit in.
“I was a bit of a lost cause. Trouble came my way far more often than not,” he said.
His actions on Friday came from his sense of making amends for his past.
“I just wanted to help and do something right for the first time in me life,” he said.
His grandmother, who died in 2013, aged 92, while Rogers was serving time, would have been “exceptionally proud” of him, he said.
The success of Stolzenberg’s fundraising campaign for Rogers had taken her by surprise. She set a target of $45,000 thinking maybe she’d raise $5000.
Meanwhile, Rogers, who continues to inhabit Bourke Street, has become a local celebrity, with people stopping to say hello and take selfies with “Trolley Man”.
Asked what he’d do with the money raised from the crowdfunding campaign, Rogers said he didn’t know, telling Fairfax: “I’m 46 mate. I’ve got to get my act together.”
Stolzenberg told Business Insider her organisation’s first priority was to assist Rogers to cope as best he can with the trauma he has been through and to make sure he’s okay.
“Mr Rogers’ reaction has been as you’d expect, however he is mostly dealing with the trauma of the events on Friday and what happened to him,” she said.
“Unlike a sudden windfall that can be celebrated, he has a lot of trauma to deal with first. I don’t believe he has ‘made plans’ so to speak. He is just taking it day by day.”
She plans to keep the fundraiser open for a week to give people a chance to donate and the money will go into a trust fund.
“We have a duty of care to make sure he isn’t taken advantage of and that the money goes to help him get back on his feet,” Stolzenberg said.
“Ultimately though, the money is Mr Rogers’ money and he can choose what that end goal looks like.”
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