New Zealand Shooting Suspect Brenton Tarrant Was A Lonely Gamer Who ‘Changed’ After Europe Trip, Family Says

Police cars at the scene of a mass shooting in New Zealand.
Dianne Manson / Getty Images

New Zealand mass shooting suspect Brenton Tarrant was a lonely young man who spent most of his time playing video games and browsing the internet, but underwent a drastic change after a trip to Europe, family members say.

In the days since the massacre at two Christchurch mosques that left a total of 50 people dead, many have tried to dig into the background of the alleged shooter. A report from Nine News spoke to family members of the 28-year-old Australian man who said that he mostly kept to himself, playing video games as a young man. His grandmother, 81-year-old Marie Fitzgerald, said that she didn’t think “girlfriends were on the agenda” for Brenton as a young man.

Family members said they saw no indications that Tarrant could have been capable of such horrific violence.

“We’re all gobsmacked,” his grandmother said. “It’s just so much for everything to take in that somebody in our family would do anything like this.”

Fitzgerald added that Brenton Tarrant changed drastically after taking a trip to Europe.

“It’s only since he traveled overseas [to Europe] that the boy has changed completely,” she said.

The alleged shooter reportedly posted a manifesto online in which he ranted against immigrants, particularly Muslims, who he saw as invaders. As CNN noted, the victims at the two mosques had come to New Zealand from all over the world, including Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

The manifesto was also filled with white supremacist language, and Tarrant flashed a “white power” symbol to cameras during his first appearance in court this week.

While there is much attention on Brenton Tarrant and his potential motives for carrying out what is the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history, many others have focused on the stories of heroism among the unarmed Muslims inside the two mosques when the shooting took place. One man, Abdul Aziz, reportedly picked up a credit card machine and chased Tarrant out of the mosque when the alleged gunman went to his car to get a new gun, throwing the machine at him.

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Aziz continued his attack even when the alleged gunman pulled out a new weapon and started firing. Aziz was then able to find a discarded gun and picked it up. He attempted to fire it, but the gun was no longer loaded so instead he used it to break the window of the gunman’s car, forcing him to drive away. Police apprehended the gunman a short time later, and Aziz’s actions likely saved many lives.