“He was running pretty fast with Tasers in his back, I don’t know how many Tasers he had in his back, it looked like a lot.
“He pushed one of the police officers on the ground and I think he was about to lunge at another one of the police with the knife, that’s what it looked like to me.
“Police were shouting, ‘stop drop, stop drop, stop drop’, screaming at him just to drop the knife, it was a big knife, a big knife.”
The witness said the man was shot three times in front of horrified shoppers.
He claimed five to seven people had been attacked by the man outside the nearby McDonald’s and inside the shopping centre before the rampage came to an end.
Police say the deceased stabbed a man at a motel and another who was in a car at the local McDonald’s before entering the shopping centre and attacking a further two men and three women.
Two officers attempted to subdue him and fired a Taser before he lunged at them with a “very large” knife.
“While being confronted by this person who was called upon many times to drop the knife – this is after the series of stabbings that had occurred – one of the officers is believed to have fired several shots,” Police Commissioner Chris Dawson told reporters.
None of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries but five were hospitalised with stab wounds, including two who remain in a serious but stable condition at Hedland Health Campus.
One of the victims had been pushing a pram with a child inside who was unharmed.
Mr Dawson said there was no indication the man was politically or ideologically motivated, describing the incident as a tragedy.
The shooting was captured on CCTV and on police body-worn cameras, he said.
Homicide detectives have flown to South Hedland via police aircraft and the professional standards division will also investigate.
WA Police Union president Harry Arnott said a team had been deployed to assist the two officers, a man and a woman, involved in the incident.
“Our information indicates our members acted to protect the community and themselves, and without their intervention this incident would be significantly more tragic for the Hedland community,” he said.
Premier Mark McGowan described the incident as “tragic and awful”, saying the officers had been responding to a highly dangerous scenario.
“All of our thoughts go to those people who have been hurt and all of our thoughts and appreciation go to those police officers,” he said.
Witness, Kenlee Kelly, 42, said she was shopping in Coles when she suddenly heard screaming.
“The guy was standing there, at first it looked like he was trying to block somebody but then I realised he had a knife and was lunging at police,” she said.
“You could hear police telling him to drop the knife.
“Then I heard a ‘bang’ and then nothing, and then ‘bang, bang’.
“All the Coles staff starting running to shut the roller doors down.
“There was a lady standing there who was a nurse and she was shouting: ‘Do you need a nurse?’ She had a baby and she handed the baby over to Coles staff and went running to help.
“It all happened so fast.”
Ms Kelly, who is nine months pregnant, was treated for shock in hospital shortly afterwards.
South Hedland Square is the only shopping centre in South Hedland, which is about 15 kilometres from Port Hedland in the state’s Pilbara region.
Owners Charter Hall confirmed the centre had been closed due to the incident and was now a crime scene.
“We are not able to make any further comments at this stage,” Rachael Cowper, head of business improvement and marketing retail, said.
“We would like to send our best wishes to those people that have been injured as a result of this terrible incident.”
Any members of the public who have dash camera, mobile phone or CCTV vision relating to the incident are asked to upload their vision to WA Police via this link.
Heather McNeill is the crime and courts editor at WAtoday.
Marta is an award-winning photographer and journalist with a focus on social justice issues and local government.