A farmer fired at by a gunman on the loose in a WA Wheatbelt town has said he is lucky to be alive, with the bullet coming within centimetres of his head.
Roy Linto, a farmer in the region, told ABC he was driving north of Kellerberrin on Thursday when he crossed paths with shooter Lachlan Bowles.
Bowles, 25, shot workmate Terry Czernowski, a father in his 40s, at Moylan Grain Silos in Kellerberrin, about 205km east of Perth, at around 8.40am on Thursday, before fleeing the scene.
It plunged the WA town into lockdown and sparked a lengthy police search.
Bowles, who was reportedly seen wearing a Swastika and waving around a Nazi flag, was believed to be driving around in a grey sedan, but was on foot when he came across Mr Linto’s car.
The farmer said he slowed down upon seeing Bowles, who was walking down the road and looked like “an everyday bloke”, but when he did so, the shooter stopped and then pointed a gun at him.
“I naturally went ‘I’ve got to get out of here’,” Mr Linto told ABC.
“So then I just give it to ‘er in the ute, and as I got past him I heard an almighty bang.”
When he returned home, Mr Linto said his son spotted a bullet hole in the cab of his ute.
“It was about 500mm away from my head,” he said.
“I would suggest if someone was in the back of the ute they would not be here today.”
Police Commander of Regional WA, Rod Wilde, told the media on Thursday evening Mr Bowles was eventually located about 20km north of the town.
“He was situated in a field there, and [Tactical Response Group officers] had been talking to him for several hours,” Mr Wilde said.
At least one police car was shot at during the incident, before Mr Bowles is understood to have turned the gun on himself, ending the stand-off.
“Obviously it’s a tragic outcome for everyone involved,” Mr Wilde said.
Kellerberrin residents have since revealed Bowles loved firearms and owned several guns, some of which he could shoot up to 3km, the West Australian reports.
It has also emerged he was a member of the local pistol club and had won shooting awards.
He was carrying a high-powered rifle and a pistol during the rampage.
The owner of the Kellerberrin Pie Shop and Bakery, Tony Downs, described Bowles as a “quiet guy” and said he had visited the bakery for lunch on Wednesday, a day before the shooting.
“He’s always been a quiet sort of a guy but you don’t expect him to turn around and pick up a gun and shoot someone,” Mr Downs told The West Australian.
“Obviously something has happened at work and it’s triggered him off and he’s gone up there and shot him, along with two other people.”
Records from the Shire of Kellerberrin reveal Bowles won a 2020 Australia Day Award for his community service with St John Ambulance.
A photo from the April 2021 award ceremony, shared on social media, revealed Bowles smiling proudly and holding his award alongside his fellow recipients.
In the comments, several people appeared to rally around Bowles, congratulating him on his award.
“Congratulations to all the worthy recipients and special mention to our SJA (St John Ambulance) volunteer Lachlan Bowles, great effort,” said one woman.