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Ax-wielding attacker goes on rampage in restaurants as patrons flee in panic

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An ax attack at three neighboring Chinese restaurants in New Zealand on Monday left four individuals injured as police arrested a suspect in what they say is not a racially-motivated crime. 

“We acknowledge how frightening this incident was for those involved, and for the wider community, and we are ensuring there is support in place for both the victims and their friends and family,” Inspector Stefan Sagar said in a statement.

The 24-year-old suspect, a Chinese national, began his attack at 9 p.m. Monday in a suburb of Auckland and hit the three restaurants before police managed to apprehend him. Officers charged him with wounding with the intention of causing grievous bodily harm and said they expect to file more charges against him.

The attacks occurred at the Zhangliang Malatang, Yues Dumpling Kitchen and Maya Hotpot restaurants. Three of the four victims remain in hospital but in stable conditions, sustaining moderate and minor injuries.

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Axe Auckland police

Police tape cordons off a restaurant in Auckland, New Zealand, Tuesday, June 20, 2023, after an ax attack late Monday. Multiple people were hospitalized after a man armed with an ax began attacking diners at random at three neighboring Chinese restaurants, according to police and witnesses. (Hayden Woodward/New Zealand Herald via AP)

The fourth victim has already been discharged. 

A chef at one of the restaurants told Radio New Zealand that the aftermath was “like a war zone.” 

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Attack Auckland police

Police tape cordons off a restaurant in Auckland, New Zealand, Tuesday, June 20, 2023, after an ax attack late Monday. Multiple people were hospitalized after a man armed with an ax began attacking diners at random at three neighboring Chinese restaurants, according to police and witnesses. (Hayden Woodward/New Zealand Herald via AP)

“I saw a young person, around their 20s, with blood on their head,” the unnamed chef said. “They stood for a moment and then collapsed to the ground.”

A witness told The Associated Press that the suspect chased people out of one restaurant only to turn around and go into another. Video posted to news website Stuff showed customers using a chair and an unidentified weapon to keep the suspect at a distance as others fled the restaurant. 

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Auckland axe injuries

Police tape cordons off a restaurant in Auckland, New Zealand, Tuesday, June 20, 2023, after an ax attack late Monday. (Hayden Woodward/New Zealand Herald via AP)

Police clarified that the man appeared to act alone, and they see no evidence for a racial motivation to the attacks, but they offered no motive for the attack otherwise. He appeared to attack customers in the restaurants at random. 

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The defendant had help from a language interpreter during his brief court appearance on Tuesday, and he did not enter a plea at that time. He was granted a temporary name suppression. 

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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