'No one could believe it:' NC man watched Sydney hostage ordeal unfold
Posted December 15, 2014
SYDNEY — A Person County man traveling on business in Australia says he witnessed the 16-hour hostage standoff that ended early Tuesday with three people dead and several others injured inside a café in the country's capital city.
"No one could believe it," Chris Blocker-Brodfuehrer said by telephone from Sydney. "They kept asking me, 'Well, you're an American. How do you all deal with this? You're used to this.'"
Blocker-Brodfuehrer, of Hurdle Mills, said he had spent part of Monday morning shopping at Sydney's Martin Place and returned an hour after he left to find Lindt Chocolat Café surrounded by police.
He went back to his nearby hotel and watched with other guests as the ordeal unfolded.
Australian TV stations broadcast images of people inside with their arms in the air and hands pressed against a window. Police evacuated nearby buildings and, during the hostage situation, five people escaped.
It ended after midnight local time with a barrage of gunfire that left two hostages – a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman – and the gunman dead.
"You just see all this light flashing through the windows and hearing the gunshots go off, so it was extremely scary," Blocker-Brodfuehrer said.
Four others, including a police officer, were wounded.
Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the gunman, Man Haron Monis, 50, claimed "political motivation" and described him as having "a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability."
What his motive might have been, however, is still unclear.
What's certain, Blocker-Brodfuehrer said, is a collective sadness in a city and country that sees relatively little violent crime.
"They're such a warm and energetic people," he said. "Today, it's very quiet, of course. Everyone's very sad, and it's just heartbreaking to see the spirit of the city really deflated from this."