August 15, 2022 By The Associated Press
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian man was charged with three weapons offenses Monday after he allegedly used a handgun inside the Canberra Airport to fire multiple shots at airport windows.
Nobody was injured during the shooting near the check-in counters Sunday afternoon. The incident prompted officials to temporarily evacuate the airport and ground planes for more than three hours.
Ali Rachid Ammoun appeared Monday via video link at the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court. The 63-year-old from New South Wales state did not apply for bail and will remain jailed until the next hearing Sept. 5. Ammoun has yet to enter a plea.
Police say Ammoun arrived at the airport in the capital at about 1:20 p.m. and sat on some seats near the check-in counters. After about five minutes, police said, he fired multiple shots from a handgun into the windows before he was arrested by federal police who were stationed at the airport.
“To my understanding and to what I can see from the crime scene, the male has let the shots off at glass within the terminal and there was not shots directed at people or persons, passengers or staff,” Detective Acting Superintendent Dave Craft told reporters.
Canberra Airport Chief Executive Stephen Byron said the shooter was in a public area of the airport.
“That’s distinct from the secure area of the terminal which is where passengers are screened and checked for malicious items before they board aircraft,” Byron told reporters.
After clearing the airport and checking to make sure Ammoun was acting alone, authorities resumed airport operations and flights soon after 5 p.m.
Ammoun has been charged with discharging a firearm at a building, unlawful possession of a firearm, and discharging a firearm near a person causing alarm.
Lily Thomson, a reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. who happened to be at the airport at the time, told the broadcaster she heard loud bangs and then saw people running towards her.
“I just assumed people were running for their flight,” she said.
She realized something was wrong when people started screaming “Run!” The incident left her feeling shaken, she said.
“It’s just the feeling of not knowing that’s quite terrifying,” she told the broadcaster. “As soon as we got out, people were on their phones to loved ones, hugging each other, that kind of thing.”
During his court appearance, Ammoun’s legal aid solicitor asked the judge to prohibit the Australian Broadcasting Corp. from reporting on the case. The application was opposed by prosecutors and the judge declined it, saying it was an open court and the broadcaster had a right to report on the case.
Ammoun is scheduled to undergo a mental-health evaluation.