‘He was going to kill us’: Police reveal harrowing accounts of Bourke St attack
Three police officers who fought to stop Bourke Street killer Hassan Khalif Shire Ali's attack say they feared for their lives as the armed man relentlessly pursued them in front of horrified shoppers before he was shot.
The officers's accounts of the moments before Shire Ali was subdued just metres from his burning ute were made public for the first time on Tuesday at an inquest into the November 9, 2018 attack.
Shire Ali set a ute on fire in Bourke Street before going on a stabbing rampage.
Lachlan Heffernan, now an acting sergeant, was off duty and shopping in a mobile phone store on Bourke Street when he heard an explosion and ran to help.
The officer, who told the inquest he had also responded to James Gargasoulas' Bourke Street rampage 18 months prior, said he was confronted with a scene out of a "Hollywood movie".
Fearing it could be a significant event, the officer said he saw Shire Ali, like "an apparition coming from the flames" as he walked from behind the ute he'd set alight, then began chasing two uniformed police with a knife.
"He was trying to kill them. He was slashing at their necks and faces. I was telling one of them to draw a gun," he said.
Hassan Khalif Shire Ali lunged at police with a knife before he was shot.
Acting Sergeant Heffernan said unless Shire Ali had been shot and incapacitated, he believes the attack would've resulted in "horrifying deaths".
"He was just saying it .. Allahu Akbar. He kept saying that over and over again," he said.
The inquest heard the first two on-duty police officers who arrived on the scene had been responding to a call for a drunken man in the city centre when they heard an explosion as they drove through the intersection of Bourke and Elizabeth streets.
The pair – known as Officer A1 and Officer B2 – had never worked together before.
"[Shire Ali] was erratic, he was walking in different directions," Officer A1 recalled. "His face was gnarled and angry. He was scowling at both of us. In his right hand, I saw that he was holding a knife.
"I could hear shouting from all around me, I kept hearing ‘knife’. The man then tried to stab B2 at least twice."
Officer A1 said he swung his baton at the 30-year-old in a desperate attempt to create distance between the pair before pepper spray was used. But both non-lethal options proved useless in stopping the armed man.
Police confront Hassan Khalif Shire Ali in Bourke Street last year.
At the same time, two bystanders used a shopping trolley and cafe chairs to try and thwart the attack.
“I saw a man with a white shirt who was standing on the footpath. He was holding his hand up to his neck and there was blood all over his shirt. I thought at the time this man had obviously been stabbed by the man going on some sort of rampage," Officer A1 said.
"[Shire Ali] then started walking towards B2 and raised the knife … above his shoulder.
"I fired one shot from my firearm. I thought he was going to kill us."
Officer A1 said that as officers from the Critical Incident Response Team arrived, he noticed another injured man – Pellegrini's co-owner Sisto Malaspina – lying on the ground.
Sisto MalaspinaCredit:Joe Armao
“I noticed further down the street … a group of people tending to an injured man who was laying on the ground. Some of the group were either performing CPR or placing pressure on a wound," he said.
Shire Ali was taken to hospital with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He died during surgery. Mr Malaspina, 74, also died in the attack.
Two other people were taken to hospital with serious injuries including stab wounds to the face and neck.
Officer's A1's offsider Officer B2 said he wished he had had access to a Taser at the time but only the Critical Incident Response Team were issued the shock devices in metropolitan Melbourne.
The inquest heard CIRT officers arrived on the scene seconds after the fatal shot was fired.
“I was thinking what options do I have. I didn’t know what he had done, I didn't know he had injured some people at this point. I still didn’t know he had a knife," Officer B2 said.
“I remember hearing someone say 'get your guns out'. Then I realised that something was in his hand … something glinting like a knife. I now think I've run out of options and I'm going to have to draw my gun.
"I started to get my firearm out and the offender rushed straight at me. He looked straight at me.
The aftermath of the Bourke Street attack in 2018.Credit:Joe Armao
"I backed off as I was getting my gun out, he was still coming right at me. I did not feel steady as I was backing away. He was coming over the top; I believed he was going to strike me.
Officer B2 said as Shire Ali then turned his attention towards his colleague, he recalled a shot being fired.
"I saw his hand raised with the knife in his hand, thrusting down towards A1. I remember the shot going off; he was right on top of A1," Officer B2 said.
“I remember a puff of smoke from the firearm. A1 backed off, he only shot once. Then CIRT turned up and pulled right behind us."
An internal panel review of the attack later strongly recommended the further rolling out of Tasers to police "as a matter of urgency", the inquest heard.
The coroner is part way through a two-week inquest into the 2018 attack.
It previously heard Shire Ali had been exhibiting extremist Islamic ideology and paranoia in the lead up to the attack. The 30-year-old had also previously been found with ISIS material, placing him on Australia's national security watch list.
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