Residents of Tara, in Queensland’s western downs, say a shooting incident on Wednesday afternoon has stoked trauma after last month’s murder of two police officers and a neighbour in nearby Wieambilla.
Four teenagers were taken into custody after reports of shots being fired in the area at 3.30pm. Police declared an exclusion zone covering several blocks in the centre of town at 5.30pm.
Police allege three civilian vehicles were struck by projectiles.
Authorities later revoked the emergency declaration in Tara and said four boys, aged between 14 and 16, were assisting police with their investigations.
The two 16-year-olds were charged with seven offences, including two counts each of discharge weapon in a public place, one count each of dangerous conduct with a weapon, unlawful possession of a weapon and three counts of wilful damage.
A 15-year-old boy was released without charge, while the 14-year-old was dealt under the provisions of the Youth Justices Act in respect to wilful damage and weapons offences.
They boys were arrested at about 10.45pm Wednesday..
A store worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said she was half an hour from finishing her shift when she was abruptly told to go home.
At the time, she had no idea what was going on inside the exclusion zone except that, once again, it involved guns, shooters and police. Specialist police, PolAir and multiple crews from the region responded to the incident.
“I just seen heaps of police officers around, it was pretty scary,” the store worker said. “Very, very scary.”
Gareth, Nathaniel and Stacey Train were shot dead by police in a dramatic shootout in December, after killing three people. The Trains had become deeply enmeshed in conspiratorial ideologies and paranoia.
“People were saying: ‘oh here we go again, conspiracy shit,’” the worker said after Wednesday’s incident.
“The media left a while ago, the police had only just left. This just brought ‘em straight back to town. It’s a bit worrying for everybody.”
Further stoking fears, initial local media reports indicated police officers were fired upon on Wednesday.
But Queensland police later said: “Information indicates about 3.30pm a civilian vehicle was shot at on Smallacombe Street. No police vehicle has been shot at.”
Publican Tracey Brauer said there were “quite a few people” at the Commercial Hotel who couldn’t leave for several hours while the exclusion zone was in place.
“No one could go home,” she said.
Hours later, after closing time, dozens of police officers turned up at the Commercial for a meal.
Brauer said her chef and staff were happy to stay back and that the police had done a “wonderful job” on what was an eerie and unsettling evening.
“We don’t need that sort of excitement,” Brauer said.
The two 16-year-old boys were denied bail and are due to appear before Dalby Childrens Court.