A rural town has been left reeling after a decorated member of the community armed himself with a rifle and handgun and fatally shot a co-worker before turning his gun on himself.
The final hours of gunman Lachlan Bowles have been revealed as police continue to investigate the chain of events that led to the deaths of two locals in Kellerberrin, about 200 km east of Perth in Western Australia.
On September 7, the 25-year-old triggered an eight-hour manhunt and siege after he donned a Nazi armband and confronted his colleague at their workplace.
Before that deadly day, Bowles was well-known in the community as a volunteer paramedic and he had been commended by the Shire of Kellerberrin for his community service in 2020.
He worked at local silo manufacturing business Moylan Grain Silos, alongside his soon-to-be victim Terry Czernowski.
It’s not clear what would have driven Bowles to fatally shoot Mr Czernowski, who was aged in his 40s and had a daughter.
Kellerberrin local Peter Mitchell on Friday told 6PR Mornings he knew both men involved in the shocking shooting. He described Bowles as “easygoing” and “smiling all the time.”
“He was quiet, kept to himself, did his stuff, but at the end of the day he was a good kid,” he said.
“If you’d told me it was going to happen I’d go ‘nah, wrong guy, you’re dreaming’.”
Mr Mitchell also described Mr Czernowski as a good person, and said he was shocked that both men were gone.
“There’s only two people who are going to know the truth of what went on, and they’re now departed,” he said.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7
It was an unremarkable day for Mr Czernowski, who made his way to work at Moylan Grain Silos on Mather Rd in Kellerberrin.
Bowles headed in the same direction, driving his grey 2007 Holden Commodore and dressed head-to-toe in camouflage clothing.
Witnesses during the day also reported he was wearing an armband emblazoned with a Nazi swastika.
The 25-year-old was armed with a high-powered rifle and a handgun.
Bowles arrived at Moylan Grain Silos before 9am and confronted Mr Czernowski.
Exactly what happened next is unclear, but he shot the older man with either the rifle or handgun, before fleeing the scene in his car.
8.40am – 2pm
Mr Czernowski was rushed to hospital, but died from his gunshot wound.
WA Police first reported “an incident in the Kellerberrin area” just before 9.30am and asked members of the public to stay indoors until further notice.
Twenty minutes later, police confirmed one person had been shot and injured, and a gunman was on the run.
At 10.14am, police issued an alert seeking the whereabouts of Bowles, but they didn’t explicitly link him to the shooting. They urged the public to call triple-zero if they spotted the young man.
Meanwhile, Bowles headed northeast out of town, towards Mission Rd. At some point during the course of the morning, he ditched his car and continued north along Mission Rd on foot.
While on foot, he was approached by local farmer Rob Linto, who was heading in the direction of York in his Toyota LandCruiser ute.
“I didn’t think much of it, but then I saw him stop … he had a gun pointed at me as I’m coming towards him,” Mr Linto told The West Australian newspaper.
“So as I saw the gun, I thought I’ve got to [accelerate]. So I just put the foot down but obviously as I went past, he’s spun around and lined me up, and had a shot.
“So I didn’t stop. I just kept launching. I stopped once and then I thought I heard a car coming, so I got back in and off.”
Mr Linto told the newspaper he eventually stopped and called triple-zero. He later realised his car had been hit.
“The bullet went through the top of the (spare) tyre, out the other side of the tyre, through the back above the window, touched inside of the roof lining, went into the roof lining at the front and tried to come out the front,” he said.
“That’s when I thought — this is reality here. I just had to sit down.”
Mr Linto was left shaken but was otherwise unharmed.
About 10.43am, police issued an active shooter alert, once again urging locals to stay inside and not travel for any reason.
They scheduled a media conference for 12.45pm, but it was postponed after Bowles was located in a farming paddock about 20km north of Kellerberrin.
Police revealed negotiations were underway between Bowles and members of the police Tactical Response Group.
It’s been reported that, during the standoff, Bowles was waving a Nazi flag.
Negotiations with Bowles broke down, and Bowles shot himself in the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police Commander of Regional WA Rod Wilde was expected to address the media at 4.30pm, but this was delayed by 15 minutes so he could confirm the standoff had ended with Bowles suffering a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The gunman’s death was not officially confirmed until just after 6.00pm.
“Obviously it’s a tragic outcome for everyone involved,” Mr Wilde said.
On Friday, police launched their extensive investigation into the shooting.
It’s anticipated detectives and forensic officers will be in Kellerberrin for days, or even weeks, as they try to piece together the incident and the events leading up to Thursday.
Meanwhile, WA Police Minister Paul Papalia addressed the media on Friday, using the opportunity to spruik his government’s gun law reforms.
“We’re on time, the work is being done, a draft will be completed soon, and will be released to the public before it’s brought into the parliament,” he said.
The updated laws are expected to toughen storage obligations and implement mandatory and recurring mental health checks for gun owners.
However, he could not offer new information about the shooting investigation.