New Zealand shooting death toll reaches 50, burials begin

Darren Mikus, World News Editor

The death toll in the Christchurch, New Zealand, mass shooting of worshippers in two mosques rose to 50 as relatives of those killed begin to bury the dead.

Twenty-one bodies were released and identified, and are being buried in a designated grave site. Other bodies have yet to be identified, or were shipped to their family’s home countries, according to The Associated Press.

During a visit to Cashmere High School, where two of the victims attended, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked students to not mention the shooter’s name, but to remember the lives of the victims.

“Look after one another but also let New Zealand be a place where there is no tolerance for racism,” she said, according to The Associated Press.

“He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless. He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing — not even his name.”

Ardern supports measures to curb the influence of the shooter, 28-year-old, Australian-born Brenton Harrison Tarrant, including a judge’s decision to blur his face when arraigned in court.

Minutes before the shooting Friday, the gunman sent a manifesto, detailing his white supremacist and anti-immigrant beliefs, to Ardern’s office.

He livestreamed the shooting, prompting condemnation. A Facebook spokesman said the website removed 1.5 million uploads of the video within 24 hours of the attack. Ardern stated her frustration at the fact that it was still available online four days later.

“We have been in contact with Facebook; they have given us updates on their efforts to have it removed, but as I say, it’s our view that it cannot — should not — be distributed, available, able to be viewed,” she said, according to The Associated Press.

“It is horrendous and while they’ve given us those assurances, ultimately the responsibility does sit with them.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also urged social media companies to crack down on such content.

Richard Peters, a defense lawyer who was assigned to represent the shooter Saturday, said the shooter dismissed him immediately, claiming he wanted to represent himself.

“He seemed quite clear and lucid, whereas this may seem like very irrational behavior. He didn’t appear to me to be facing any challenges or mental impairment, other than holding fairly extreme views.”

Peters argued that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the shooter to adequately represent himself in court alone.

“The court is not going to be very sympathetic to him if he wants to use the trial to express his own views,” he said.

Janna Ezat, a mother of one of the victims, visited a memorial with many other family members of the victims. Her son, Hussein, confronted the shooter and charged at him before dying from gunshot wounds.

“I’m very happy. I’m wearing white. We normally wear black,” she said. “But he is a hero and I am proud of him.”

The shooter is currently being held in a prison in Christchurch, pending his criminal trial, according to The Associated Press.