One of Victoria’s top police officers has questioned the ‘heroic’ actions of the Good Samaritan affectionately known as “trolley man” in Friday afternoon;s Bourke Street terror attack.
When 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali crashed a ute down Bourke Street, set it on fire and launched a brazen knife attack, homeless man Michael Rogers emerged from a crowd of onlookers and jumped into action.
The 46-year-old, who insists he is no hero, started ramming Shire Ali as police attempted to disarm the knife from his hand.
Social media users, who quickly coined the nickname “trolley man”, have so far raised more than $131,000 in a GoFundMe page for Mr Rogers – however police chief Graham Ashton said his actions could have ended tragically.
“I don’t like to criticise people in that situation, he’s acting instinctively about what he’s looking at in front of him,” Mr Ashton told Melbourne radio station 3AW.
“But if a trolley had hit a police member and knocked him over and then this offender got on top of him, we could have had a tragic consequence.
“I think he was trying to support the police in his own way, so I haven’t been jumping on him over the weekend.”
Beloved Melbourne restaurateur Sisto Malaspina, 74, was killed and two other men were injured in Friday’s terror event in Bourke Street when 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali drove a ute into the city and set it alight before launching a knife attack.
As floral tributes built outside the cafe co-owned by Mr Malaspina, his family accepted the offer of a state funeral and paid tribute to the man who “loved this great city so much”.
“Each customer of dad’s was given the same respect and service regardless of their standing in society,” their statement read.
Pellegrini’s will reopen its doors at 8am Tuesday, with staff offering all customers a free long black – Sisto’s favourite drink.
Shire Ali’s family said he was suffering mentally in the lead up to Friday’s attack in Bourke Street.
“Please stop turning this into a political game. This isn’t a guy who had any connections with terrorism but was simply crying for help,” they have told media.
But police weren’t aware of any health issues with the knife attacker, whose passport was cancelled by federal authorities in 2015 amid concerns the Somali-born man would try to go to Syria to fight for Islamic State.
Shire Ali was shot by an officer during Friday’s attack and died later in hospital.