It started with an argument with a neighbor.
On Nov. 13, 1990, David Gray was an unemployed 33-year-old living in his family’s holiday home in a small New Zealand beach community. Next door, Garry Holden and his daughters Jasmine, 11, and Chiquita, 9, were enjoying a sunny weekend outdoors in Aramoana, near Dunedin, where it was early summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
Holden’s girlfriend, Julie Anne Bryson, lived down the street, and her 11-year-old daughter, Rewa, had come over to play with the girls.
Around sunset, Gray and Holden got into a dispute — the source of it remains murky — in front of their homes. Gray went back into his house briefly to retrieve a semiautomatic rifle. The girls were walking out of the Holden home just as the shooting began.
By the time police stopped Gray the next day, he had killed 13 people, including four children.
It was the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand’s history until Friday, when police say 49 people were killed after a heavily armed gunman opened fire on Muslim worshipers in Christchurch. Two mosques were targeted in Friday’s shootings, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as a terrorist attack.
The Aramoana rampage shook a country where gun violence had always been rare.
“Rewa said, in this tone with no emotion, ‘Garry’s getting shot,’ " Chiquita Holden remembered in an interview with the Otago Daily Times in 2005. “It was like a really bad soap opera.”
The girls ran back inside and hid under a table, but Gray followed them in and shot all three. Jasmine and Rewa were killed. A bullet went through Chiquita’s arm and lodged in her abdomen.
“I think it was the force of the shot that sent me out the door. From there I just got up and ran,” she told the Times.
She ran past her dad’s lifeless body to his girlfriend’s house and told her what was happening. Bryson called authorities, wrapped Chiquita in a towel and loaded her into a van. She drove back toward the Holden home to see if she could get her daughter out, but by this time, Gray had lit the house on fire. He shot at them as they passed, but they weren’t hit. Bryson floored it.
“That was the worst thing — that I didn’t stop. I felt like a failure as a mother,” Bryson told the New Zealand Herald in 2010.
They made it to a hospital, where Chiquita’s wounds were treated, but the nightmare continued in the neighborhood.
Gray had a scope on his rifle, allowing him to shoot accurately from a distance. As neighbors noticed the fire and approached the scene, he picked them off. James Dickson, 45. Vic Crimp, 71. Tim Jamieson, 69. Chris Cole, 62.
Ross Percy was coming home from a day of fishing with his wife, Vanessa, their two kids, age 6 and 4, a friend of the children, also 6, and a family friend in his 40s, when he saw the smoke and drove up to help. Gray shot all of them. Only the 4-year-old survived her wounds.
He then shot and killed Sgt. Stewart Guthrie, the first officer to arrive at the scene. According to the Herald, Guthrie knew Gray and had hoped he could talk him into surrendering.
Gray spent the night and the next day roving the neighborhood, evading authorities and shooting at anything that moved. As the sun began to set again, an anti-terrorism squad closed in on him in his home, where they tried to force him out with a stun grenade. Mike Kyne, one of the officers on the squad, told the Herald that Gray came out guns blazing. They shot him five times, and he died a short time later.
As a result of the massacre, New Zealand tightened its gun laws in 1992. But it didn’t go as far as Australia, which, in the wake of the Port Arthur mass shooting in 1996 that left 35 dead, banned semiautomatic rifles for personal use and instituted licensing rules and wait times. The 1992 New Zealand law required stricter licensing and registration for semiautomatic weapons but did not ban them outright.
A week after the shooting, according the Herald, Gray’s neighbors burned his house to the ground.
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