Heroic police officers who took down Christchurch terrorist describe apprehending shooter

Senior Constables Jim Manning and Scott Carmody.
Senior Constables Jim Manning and Scott Carmody. Photo credit: Police.

The heroic police officers who stopped the Christchurch terrorist have recounted how they apprehended the shooter after intentionally colliding with his car.

Senior Constables Jim Manning and Scott Carmody, both from Christchurch, were on Thursday awarded the New Zealand Bravery Decoration for their actions on March 15, 2019, following the terrorist attacks on Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre.

Fifty-one people were shot dead on that tragic day and a further 89 people wounded. However, the brave actions of the two policemen have been praised for potentially stopping more carnage.

In an article for the police Ten One magazine released on Thursday, it's said that Manning and Carmody were at a routine tactical training session in Cashmere, Christchurch on March 15 when news broke of the horror unfolding near the central city.

Understanding there had been a shooting with fatalities on Deans Ave, the pair, who have known each other for more than 20 years, retrieved their rifle, handgun and Taser, put on their ballistic armour and set off towards the scene.

"I was thinking some poor New Brighton community cop's going to be pulling up these guys and he's not going to be armed," Manning told Ten One. "We need to go wide because we need to be where the police guns aren't."

They drove along Brougham St, when they heard the offender was in a Subaru on a parallel road. Eventually they saw the vehicle - with bullet holes in its windscreen - coming in the opposite direction through a red light, leading them to pull a U-turn.

"I was thinking 'There's a good likelihood we're going to die'," said Manning. "But I remember looking across at Scotty and thinking 'This guy's got it, I've got it, we've got it, this is us'.

"It's like we were heading down the Valley of Death and my brain said 'Fear's no good to you, mate. Turn that off and deal with what's in front of you and you'll stay alive'."

Despite being concerned whoever was inside the Subaru may fire at them, they pursued the vehicle until they found the right opportunity to collide with it. 

Manning did it at such an angle as not to deploy the airbag in his vehicle, allowing Carmody to quickly get out of the car before it had even stopped.

Carmody was able to circle the offender's car. Expecting a firefight, he was surprised to find only one person inside along with an array of weapons. 

Manning opened up the hatchback, intending to arrest the man from behind. He found what appeared to be four improvised incendiary devices, described by the magazine as petrol cans with objects taped to them.

"I remember thinking 'When he blows up this is going to really, really hurt'," Manning said. 

The officers were able to remove the weapons and pull the shooter out of the car.

"He was squirming a wee bit," Carmody told Ten One

With the man moving his hands around in his vest, the officer did consider shooting him, concerned the man could have a detonator or another weapon. But there was a risk of a ricochet hitting Manning. 

"So I reversed my weapon and struck him with the butt, with the intention of rendering him unconscious."

The man was handcuffed and pulled away from the vehicle. Minutes later, the offender told the pair there were up to 10 military or police-trained gunmen carrying out coordinated attacks on Muslim targets across the country, with many others doing so around the world.

At this point, other police cars arrived and the offender's car was cordoned off. Carmody stayed to help evacuate other homes and keep people away while Manning and another officer took the shooter to Christchurch Central. 

He then went on to brief the District Commander Superintendent before returning to the car. They didn't stand down until much later in the evening.

Snr Const Jim Manning, left, and Snr Const Scott Carmody with Prince William.
Snr Const Jim Manning, left, and Snr Const Scott Carmody with Prince William. Photo credit: Police.

The names of the two officers weren't made public until December 2019. The Ten One magazine says they had asked for the court-order anonymity to be removed as they didn't want special treatment and recognised that the victims didn't have name suppression.

"We wanted to continue to stand with the victims and their families and not hide behind name suppression. If they could be named, so could we," Carmody said.

He stood with the victims when the offender was sentenced in June 2020 to life in prison without any chance of parole.

The magazine article ends with the pair talking about the need for officers to have trust in their training, equipment and mates.  

"Scotty kept us alive," said Manning. "The fact that he got out of that car so quickly… and got to that corner and had that gun at the driver's head before he could reach across to get his guns is the reason we're still alive."

Carmody said he knew Manning had his back. 

"I knew wherever we ended up, he would be there; I knew he was fully capable of dealing with whatever it was we had to deal with."

In a statement on Thursday, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the men "put themselves in extreme danger to stop the gunman and prevent further harm to the community".

"I am proud and delighted to see the bravery and skills of these experienced frontline officers acknowledged by the nation through these awards."

Manning said the award was an "honour" but any officer would have done the same thing, while Carmody said the pair wanted to acknowledge the victims. 

"The victims and their loved ones will always be front of mind for us. And there were many, many people involved in the response including many of our fellow police officers," he said. 

"This award really is for every one of our colleagues involved in that response. All of them were prepared to put themselves in harm's way, and it could have been any one of them that came across that car on that day."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement that the men had shown "exceptional courage" and helped ensure no more lives were put at risk. 

"Their actions that day went above and beyond – they essentially ended the gunman's attack and did so not knowing whether he had an additional arsenal on hand."