When the gunman advanced toward the mosque, killing those in his path, Abdul Aziz didn’t hide. Instead, he picked up the first thing he could find, a credit card machine, and ran outside screaming, “Come here!”
Aziz, 48, is being hailed as a hero for preventing more deaths during Friday prayers at the Linwood mosque in Christchurch after leading the gunman in a cat-and-mouse chase before scaring him into speeding away in his car.
But Aziz, whose four sons and dozens of others remained in the mosque while he faced off with the gunman, said he thinks it’s what anyone would have done.
The gunman killed 50 people after attacking two mosques in the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history.
The gunman is believed to have killed at least 41 people at the Al Noor mosque before driving about three miles across town and attacking the Linwood mosque, where he killed seven more people. One person died later in a hospital, and police announced Sunday that a 50th body had been found.
White supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with one count of murder in the slayings and a judge said Saturday that it was reasonable to assume more charges would follow.
Latef Alabi, the Linwood mosque’s acting imam, said the death toll would have been far higher at the Linwood mosque if it weren’t for Aziz.
Alabi said he heard a voice outside the mosque about 1:55 p.m. and stopped the prayer he was leading and peeked out the window. He saw a guy in black military-style gear and a helmet holding a large gun, and assumed it was a police officer. Then he saw two bodies and heard the gunman yelling obscenities.
“I realized this is something else. This is a killer,” he said.
He yelled at the congregation of more than 80 to get down. They hesitated. A shot rang out, a window shattered and a body fell, and people began to realize it was for real.
“Then this brother came over. He went after him, and he managed to overpower him, and that’s how we were saved,” Alabi said, referring to Aziz. “Otherwise, if he managed to come into the mosque, then we would all probably be gone.”
Aziz said as he ran outside screaming, he was hoping to distract the attacker. He said the gunman ran back to his car to get another gun, and Aziz hurled the credit card machine at him.
A man reacts during a vigil Sunday at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, New Zealand.(Elias Rodriguez / Getty Images)
Mourners embrace at a vigil Sunday at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, New Zealand.(Elias Rodriguez / Getty Images)
Mourners share their grief at a memorial near the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.(Vincent Yu / Associated Press)
Dunedin residents leave flowers and messages at a local mosque in tribute to Christchurch victims.(Dianne Manson / Getty Images)
Residents of Dunedin, New Zealand, pay tribute to those killed and injured in Christchurch.(Dianne Manson / Getty Images)
Mourners pay their respects at Hagley College after the attacks in Christchurch.(Michael Bradley / AFP/Getty Images)
Residents pay respects to the victims of the mosque attacks in Christchurch.
(Tessa Burrows / AFP/Getty Images)
A woman whose husband was killed in Friday’s mass shootings in Christchurch mourns her loss Saturday.(Vincent Thian / Associated Press)
A mourner lays flowers outside the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch.(Fiona Goodall / Getty Images)
Flowers accumulate at a street memorial for the victims of the mosque attacks in Christchurch.(Dianne Manson / Getty Images)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, speaks with a representative of the Canterbury Refugee Center in Christchurch.(Marty Melville / AFP/Getty Images)
Flags fly at half staff on the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Sydney, Australia.(James Gourley / Getty Images)
Men gather after laying flowers for the victims outside one of the Christchurch mosques.(Dianne Manson / Getty Images)
Police stand outside a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Multiple people were killed during shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers.(Mark Baker / Associated Press)
People in front of the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, awaiting word on victims.(Kai Schwoerer / Getty Images)
Police cordon off the area in front of the Al Noor Mosque after the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.(Tessa Burrows / AFP/Getty Images)
A man speaks on a cellphone outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, after a shooting there.(Mark Baker / Associated Press)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at a news conference in Wellington, New Zealand, after the mosque attacks Friday.(Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images)
This image taken from the suspected shooter’s video, which was filmed Friday, shows a gun in his vehicle.
(Associated Press )
This image taken from the suspected shooter’s video, which was filmed Friday, shows him as he drives.
(Associated Press )
Medical workers remove an injured man from the scene of one of the mosque shootings in central Christchurch.(Mark Baker / Associated Press)
A body lies on a sidewalk outside a mosque in central Christchurch.
(Mark Baker / Associated Press)
A man rests on the ground as he speaks on his mobile phone across the road from one of the targeted mosques.(Mark Baker / Associated Press)
Hamzah Noor Yahaya, a survivor of the shootings at Masjid al Noor mosque, stands in front of Christchurch Hospital at the end of a lockdown Friday.(Kai Schwoerer / Getty Images)
Armed police maintain a presence outside the Masijd Ayesha Mosque in Auckland, New Zealand.(Phil Walter / Getty Images)
The New Zealand national flag is flown at half-staff on a Parliament building in Wellington after a mass shooting in Christchurch left 49 people dead.(Marty Melville / AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer patrols at a cordon near a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand.(Mark Baker / Associated Press)
Worshipers pray for victims of the New Zealand shootings at a Friday evening vigil at the Lakemba Mosque in New South Wales, Australia.(Mark Goudkamp / AP)
People wait for news outside a mosque in central Christchurch after the shootings.(Mark Baker / Associated Press)
Flowers are placed on the front steps of the Wellington Masjid mosque in Kilbirnie in Wellington after a shooting incident at two mosques in Christchurch.(Marty Melville / AFP/Getty Images)
The Chiefs and Hurricanes observe a moment of silence Friday before a Super Rugby match at FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand.(Michael Bradley / Getty Images)
He said he could hear his two youngest sons, aged 11 and 5, urging him to come back inside.
The gunman returned, firing. Aziz said he ran, weaving through cars parked in the driveway, which prevented the gunman from getting a clean shot. Then Aziz spotted a gun the gunman had abandoned and picked it up, pointed it and squeezed the trigger. It was empty.
He said the gunman ran back to the car for a second time, likely to grab yet another weapon.
“He gets into his car and I just got the gun and threw it on his window like an arrow and blasted his window,” he said.
The windshield shattered: “That’s why he got scared.”
He said the gunman was cursing at him, yelling that he was going to kill them all. But he drove away and Aziz said he chased the car down the street to a red light, before it made a U-turn and sped away. Online videos indicate police officers managed to force the car from the road and drag out the suspect soon after.
Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, Aziz said he left as a refugee when he was a boy and lived for more than 25 years in Australia before moving to New Zealand a couple of years ago.
“I’ve been to a lot of countries and this is one of the beautiful ones,” he said. And, he always thought, a peaceful one as well.
Aziz said he didn’t feel fear or much of anything when facing the gunman. It was like he was on autopilot. And he believes that God, that Allah, didn’t think it was his time to die.