Vehicle ramming attack that injured 19 in Australia probably wasn't terror, police say

  • A vehicle hit pedestrians in a busy part of Melbourne, Australia.
  • The crash happened at 4.45 p.m. Thursday local time.
  • Nineteen people have been injured, four severely.
  • The driver and another man have been arrested.
  • Police say they have no evidence that the motive was terrorism, and instead suspect mental health problems.

Police investigating a vehicle ramming attack in Melbourne, Australia, have said that they don’t think it was an act of terror.

At a press conference held Thursday night local time, a spokesman for Victoria state police said that the suspect they had arrested has a history of mental health problems.

He described the man as a 32-year-old Australian citizen “of Afghan descent” who has a criminal record and was receiving mental health treatment.

He said: “We don’t at this time have any evidence or intelligence to indicate a connection with terrorism.”

Officers are instead investigating the likely influence of “mental health and drug use,” he said.

Nineteen people were injured in the collision, which happened around 4.45 p.m. local time when an SUV hit a crowd of people. Four victims are in critical condition, the police spokesman said.

Police arrested the driver of the vehicle shortly after the incident. An earlier statement described the attack as “a deliberate act,” but did not ascribe a motive.

Victoria police spokesmanVictoria PoliceA Victoria Police spokesman speaking to reporters. Daniel Andrews, the leader of Victoria’s state government, is standing on the left.

A second man, a 24-year-old, was also arrested after he was seen filming the attack on his phone. Police said he was carrying a bag containing three knives. They have yet to establish what, if anything, connects him to the other suspect.

A witness to the attack described injured victims “flying everywhere” as the car smashed through the crowds.

Jim Stoupas, the owner of a nearby doughnut shop, told CNN: “It just plowed into the crowds. We heard this noise and we looked up then we just heard bang, bang, bang and people flying everywhere.”

A video from the scene shows emergency services responding to injured people:

Major streets in cities such as Melbourne and Sydney have been packed with Christmas shoppers this week.

Thursday’s attack is similar to another incident in January, when a car mounted the pavement and killed four people on Bourke Street, a few streets north of Flinders Street.

That attack was ultimately not deemed to be an act of terrorism.

Europe and the US have also seen a series of terror-related attacks where vehicles were used to mow down pedestrians.

Daniel Andrews, the leader of Victoria’s state government, tweeted: “Stay safe. Check on your loved ones. And thank you to our brave emergency services.”

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull added: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the emergency and health workers who are treating them.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.