Two rural police officers 'took down Christchurch massacre suspect'

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the attacker surely would have killed even more people were it not for the bravery of the policemen

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has praised the dramatic arrest of the suspected Christchurch gunman just 36 minutes after authorities were alerted was carried out by a pair of rural New Zealand police offices.

Ms Ardern said the alleged attacker, 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant, would surely have killed more people than the 49 worshippers he massacred in two mosques were it not for the policemen.

"The offender was mobile, there were two other firearms in the vehicle that the offender was in, and it absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack," Ms Ardern told reporters in Christchurch.

Grainy video footage, apparently shot from a passing car, shows the gunman's light-coloured vehicle at the side of a busy road, rammed against the kerb by a police car and with one of its front wheels suspended in the air.

Social media video grab of police at the car of a suspect following shootings at two mosques in Christchurch
Social media video grab of police at the car of a suspect following shootings at two mosques in Christchurch

An officer – who appeared to only be armed with a handgun – approach the opened passenger door of the car pointing his weapon inside before being joined by a second officer who appeared to be aiming a larger firearm.

"They were rural community cops I understand from Lincoln [a nearby town] who were present here. Anyone who has seen the footage... they put New Zealand first," Ms Ardern said.

"The individual charged was in custody 36 minutes from receiving the first call," she said.

The officers can be seen dragging a black-clad figure away from the vehicle, as motorists slowly drove by on the other side of the city carriageway.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush also praised the officers who brought the massacre to an abrupt halt.

"I would also like to commend … as some of you would have seen the brave actions on social media of police staff who responded to this incident," he said.

"I'm extremely proud of what they've done today."

Tarrant, 28, smirked and flashed a white power gesture as he appeared in court Saturday charged with one count of murder. Further charges are expected to follow.