One of Australia’s busiest train station in Melbourne was evacuated on Thursday after passengers panicked when an Aboriginal busker with “suspicious behaviour” was mistaken for a gunman. The musician, identified as Will Austin, was carrying an instrument in a duffel bag, was doing breathing exercises to prepare for his performance when another passenger mistakenly thought his instrument bag was a rifle case and raised a false alarm, local police said.
“Look, obviously people ring us with a lot of jobs and things that happen,” Inspector Jacob Bugeja said, adding “They saw someone acting unusual on the train.
“They have seen a bag and were unsure what was in the bag and, coupled with the behaviour of the person, they were a bit worried and just wanted to let us know about the man who had been seen acting suspiciously,” Bugeja said.
People in Australia are little jittery after the March 18 attacks by an Australian white-supremacist on two mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch that resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people.
The musician had been on the way to play his guitar in the Central Business District when the Flagstaff train station was suddenly shut down during the morning peak hour commute.
“A dozen cops came running past,” a passenger said.
When police finally approached the man, they realised he was only carrying a sports duffel bag that looked “nothing like” a gun bag.
Police spoke with the man for about 20 minutes and confirmed he was not actually carrying a weapon before the train station was opened again. They confirmed that there had been no threat to the commuters.
“He was a local busker who was there to play an instrument in town,” Bugeja said at a press conference.
“There was a bag that the person was carrying and he had his tools to busk with him.”
“There were special response units running around everywhere, they had fully automatic weapons and riot shields and they were yelling at people to get back in the train,” a student on the train was quoted as saying by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Terrified passengers started calling their loved ones. Witnesses said some passengers were in hysterics, fearing a terrorist attack, the report sad.
“Everybody started panicking. There was a woman next to me in hysterics, she was calling her whole family, telling them that she loved them, that she wasn’t sure what was going on. She thought it was a terrorist attack.”
“It was just really scary.”
Later, Aboriginal busker Austin said he was approached by police at the Flagstaff Station.
“When you get swarmed by police at Flagstaff station after reports of a gunman, looking suspicious on a mission and carrying a Yidaki and a bag full of artefacts. I’m not carrying no rifle or ammunition fellas. But seriously though, stay safe all you mob out there travelling through the city this morning!” he said on Facebook and posted a selfie of himself holding the instrument following the dramatic shut down of Flagstaff Station.
The incident threw Melbourne’s train network into chaos, with major delays reported by Metro on all lines.