Scott Brown, the US ambassador to New Zealand, is decrying the “horrific and cowardly” shootings at two mosques that killed at least 49 people in Christchurch.
The former Massachusetts US senator said New Zealand is a diverse society, welcoming of immigrants, and he’s seen no racial or religious tension since he arrived there as ambassador in 2017.
No one, he said in a telephone interview, expected the “cowardly and heinous act of one person, or maybe more, to really change the very fabric of this country.”
“I guess that’s why he chose it,” Brown added. “He said he wanted to make sure that there are no safe havens in the world, or something to that effect.”
One man was arrested and charged with murder, and two other armed suspects were taken into custody while police tried to determine what role they played.
The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings left a long manifesto that he posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant, identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian white nationalist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.
The shootings were the deadliest such attack in the country’s modern history.
Brown, a onetime Wrentham resident, said he’s been in “constant” contact with New Zealand’s government and has offered any US help the island nation might need.
He said a call from his deputy alerted him about the shooting. Initial reports had six or nine people dead. “Obviously, the magnitude of it came up pretty quickly thereafter,” he said.
The attack marked a shift for Brown, posted to one of the world’s safest countries which sees little gun violence among its 5 million residents.
On Thursday night, Brown tweeted about hosting a dinner honoring WETA Digital, a visual effects company, at the ambassadorial residence, a palatial estate with a sweeping front lawn.
On Friday, Brown and his team were checking on the safety of diplomatic personnel and sending out notices to US citizens in the country.
Brown’s path to ambassador was circuitous. The Republican and onetime Massachusetts state legislator won an upset special election for US Senate in 2010, lost to Elizabeth Warren in 2012, moved to New Hampshire, and tried unsuccessfully to unseat incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in 2014.
In 2016, he endorsed Donald Trump early, before the New Hampshire primary. After Trump won, Brown was appointed ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa and confirmed in June 2017.Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.