The 2 police officers who arrested the New Zealand shooting suspect didn't know the severity of the massacre and just happened to be in full gear when they nabbed him

  • New Zealand authorities have revealed more information about how the Christchurch shooting suspect was arrested on March 15.
  • The police said just 21 minutes lapsed between the first emergency call and the time the suspect in the shooting was arrested.
  • Officials praised the two officers who made the risky arrest, which they apparently made while the suspect was shooting and yelling “I have a bomb.”
  • The officers weren’t even from Christchurch – they were on their way back from a training session in the city when they made the arrest, officials said.

New Zealand authorities have begun to release new details around the March 15 arrest of the Christchurch shooting suspect, revealing that just 21 minutes lapsed between the first emergency call and the suspect’s arrest.

Two police officers arrested the man, who was armed with semiautomatic rifles and is accused of opening fire on two Christchurch mosques, ultimately killing 50 and injuring another 50.

Investigators believe the suspect was en route to a third mosque when two police officers captured him, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Wednesday.

“We strongly believe we stopped him on the way to a further attack,” he told reporters at a press conference. “So lives were saved.”

The two officers have won widespread praise for their high-stakes arrest, which was captured on video from bystanders. Striking footage shows the suspect’s car rammed onto the curb by a police cruiser, its wheels still spinning as the officers approach with their guns drawn.

Read more: Video of arrest just after New Zealand mosque shootings appears to show how a suspect was caught by police

The video shows the officers reaching through the driver’s side door to drag the suspect out of the car and pin him to the ground, where they can be seen restraining him.

But what the video doesn’t show is the suspect screaming “I have a bomb” and firing shots as the officers arrest him, New Zealand’s police minister, Stuart Nash, told Newstalk ZB. He lauded the officers, who he said showed bravery and calmness in a chaotic and risky situation.

When confronted by someone “who was firing shots, who said he had a bomb, they were calm, they executed their duties in a way that I just think was extraordinary,” Nash said. “We overuse the word ‘hero,’ but not in this case.”

Nash added that the officers who made the arrest weren’t from Christchurch and suggested they hadn’t been aware of the extent of the massacre.

Rather, the officers were from the nearby town of Lincoln and had just come from a training session in Christchurch, which is why they were already dressed in full gear.

Read more: What we know about the guns used in the Christchurch mosque attacks and how New Zealand’s gun laws could change after the massacre

Normally, New Zealand police officers wear only stab-proof vests and would have had to suit up in a police station or retrieve weapons and ballistic armour from their car trunks, Chris Cahill, a detective inspector and president of a local police union,told The New York Times.

Cahill told The Times that the multiple attack locations most likely affected police response times and added an extra layer of complexity to an already frenzied response.

According to footage of the attack the gunman livestreamed, the attacks unfolded quickly. The shooting at the first mosque took roughly six minutes, before the gunman got back in his car and drove away to the second mosque, which was also just minutes away.

“The second mosque would have been the real confusion,” Cahill told The Times. “Calls coming in from one, and then calls saying second mosque, and people saying, ‘What? Do you mean this mosque or that one?'”

Though some have criticised the police response for taking too long, Nash told Newstalk ZB that even an original estimate of 35 minutes between the first emergency call and the arrest would have been remarkable given the circumstances.

“The commissioner and his team are looking through all the transcripts and the voice recordings, and we think it can be as low as 20 minutes – the commissioner can’t quite believe it’s that short,” he said. “We’re talking about a widely spread city. To have the guy arrested within either 20 minutes or 35 minutes I think is extraordinary.”

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